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In a recent coaching session a client shared a secret:  “I realized that the reason I haven’t been very productive since my move is that I don’t have anyone I can really talk to,” she said.  “I have work friends and attend networking events, but I don’t feel a deep connection to anyone.”

All the Lonely People

Loneliness is officially a public health crisis.  According to a 2018 survey, 22% of adults in the US and 23% in the UK say they always or often feel lonely, lack companionship, feel left out or isolated.  The number of single-occupant households is growing in Denmark, Germany and Canada.  Britain was the first nation in history to appoint a minister for loneliness.

As technology continues to make it easier to do things without interacting with each other, why should we make the effort?  Humans have survived because our brains are wired for connection.  There are serious physical and emotional consequences to spending too much time in isolation.

Less Judgement, More Listening

What should we do?  As Amy Banks points out in Four Ways to Click: Rewire Your Brain for Stronger, More Rewarding Relationship, “when you’re judging, you’re not listening… if you’re not judging, you can listen more and feel calmer,” which makes interacting with others much easier.  The author of Cracking the Code of Sustained Collaboration in Harvard Business Review recommends teaching people to listen so that judgment can give way to curiosity and people can value others’ perspectives as much as their own.  Brené Brown challenges us to “listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.”

Listening is the secret to the deep connection that creates nourishing relationships.  How can you claim this for yourself or offer it to someone else today?

shame

If a boss made you feel stupid or a clique excluded you, you know what shame feels like.   Shame is a very uncomfortable topic.  Brené Brown, PhD, and well-known shame researcher says nothing shuts down a conversation like her response to the question, “What do you do?”

Shame is Human

All of us have experienced shame because, as Brown writes in The Gifts of Imperfection, it turns up in the most “familiar places, including appearance and body image, family, parenting, money and work, health, addiction, sex, aging, and religion. To feel shame is to be human.”  We humans are hard-wired for belonging because it was critical to the survival of our ancestors who couldn’t make it alone.

Cultivate Resilience

We feel shame when we believe that we don’t measure up to someone else’s standards for fitting in but we can win the shame game by cultivating resilience.  Here is how to do that:

  • Recognize the symptoms: you start down what Brown calls a shame spiral when you think, “I am a failure” instead of “I failed to deliver on my objectives this quarter.”
  • Share your story: since shame thrives in secret, talking with someone you trust takes away its power.  The #MeToo movement is a great example of this but you don’t have to go public.
  • Practice self-compassion: give yourself a break and treat yourself the way you treat other people you love and respect.

The author of A Wrinkle in Time  (the basis for a movie starring Oprah Winfrey) wrote, “People are more than just the way they look.”  How would you complete this sentence: “I am more than…”?