Here are my thoughts on why we fall victim to disconnection and poor communication and how we can do better to cultivate connection in this complex world of today…
Empathy over sympathy
Sympathy is “I feel sorry for you,” which doesn’t take away my pain, or share it, or take away my shame and fear and loss and aloneness. But empathy can. It’s sharing that burden and saying “I know what that feels like.”
And I know we don’t always experience the exact same things in the same way, like I’ve never been an ex-con out of jail and struggling for a livelihood. But I can empathise with his feelings of worthlessness, rejection, judgement, shame, fear, lack of belonging, anxiety, and so on.
If more people tried to appreciate the shared emotions that we all have, rather than focusing on the lack of firsthand experience with a certain event, we’d find that empathy. That compassion. And through that comes a strong connection.
Understanding brings connection.
Social media blame
It’s not just social media, ok! Before social media, there was still texting and before that still phone calls or whatever else. The rise in technology means we don’t have to talk to people face to face as much, thus diminishing connection; but the thing is, if someone wants to be distracted, they will find something to be distracted by.
I think it’s a limited view to just blame social media or technology for our lack of connection and communication. We need to be asking ourselves why do I want to be distracted right now? Why don’t I want to be present with the people I’m with? What do I feel is missing from this moment?
This is what needs addressing in order to bring about conscious action towards better communication and connection in the modern era.
I’m not sure why we are unfocused but we are. We want everything to be quick and easy, even communication and connection.
“People don’t listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.”
They often have a snap answer that doesn’t actually respond to what the person said. People aren’t aware of what they say and how they say it.
People hardly witness everything that goes on in a conversation: body language, eye contact, social cues, shared energies and so on. We just answer quickly, then spew out own stuff on the person, then we nod and leave. This is broken, but I’m not sure exactly why.
Belonging instead of fitting in
I think many of us are confused about what belonging is as opposed to fitting in. It was Brene Brown that said “the opposite of belonging is fitting in“, which blew my mind.
Most of us think that fitting in and belonging are the same, but they’re fundamentally different.
Belonging means I am my true authentic self and I am accepted by my peers.
Whereas, fitting in is hustling for self-worth from the wrong people in order to fit a perceived norm or sense of what’s right in society.
If more of us strived for belonging instead of fitting in, we would be happier. We would find that our communication with our peers is beautiful and free. We would gain a wonderfully warm sense of connection with people who see the real us and value it, and who show us the real them, too.
This is the reason why conversations about race never go well; they’re uncomfortable and so people avoid them. You can’t talk about race without talking about privilege, which is what Brene Brown said and I agree. Then talking about privilege makes people feel shame and so their defences go up and they opt out or fight as if being attacked when they’re not.
The same goes for many other conversations. We are afraid of judgment, shame, rejection, conflict, criticism and so on (which is all vulnerability) and so we avoid it. But avoiding those things means we miss out on real connection and honest communication.
If more of us could embrace vulnerability instead of running from it, we could move mountains! With all the ickiness that vulnerability brings, it also brings about some really important stuff…
Vulnerability is saying “I feel scared that you don’t find me attractive anymore.”
It’s “I love you and I fear that you don’t love me in the same way.”
It’s “I know I have privileges that you don’t have and I’m here to help you to be seen in this world the way I am.”
Avoiding these kinds of conversations or topics ensures missed connection and broken communication. For real connection, we must allow vulnerability to be there. Doing this more often, will bring you closer to people and it will become easier with practice, I promise.
Us versus Them
This is anti-community behaviour, but paradoxically, also a consequence of communities. Or rather, a consequence of segregated communities. These communities are a breeding ground for hatred, discrimination, and the Us versus Them principle.
The problem comes from the labels and categories that we as a society are obsessed with. Our need for “understanding” through labels causes miscommunication and misunderstanding. It forces people into boxes that come with a list of traits that are often untrue or poorly conceived.
Our race, gender, sexuality, heritage, nationality, body shape, abilities, religion, political views, and more are all a way of signing us up to a certain community with a set of expectations and norms that segregate us.
You are this or you are that.
This method is so broken. I mean, I get it; I feel a sense of belonging from say the Black community as a Mixed-Race female. But then it creates problems because it means you’re not white; you’re not the majority.
I guess what I’m getting at is it’s too narrow-minded. I don’t see why we need labels, especially to this degree. It just brings about assumptions, stereotypes, hate, and separation. It should come as no surprise that this is not the way towards connection and compassionate communication.
How do we fix it, after all this time? Well, we stop wearing labels so freely! Stop expecting them from others. Embrace another human being with kindness, respect, and compassion without having any preconceived notions about who they might be due to a label and a community that you think they belong to.
Just say hi and be fair and allow the space for connection. If they turn out to be an arsehole, then you can walk away, simple.
These were just some of my thoughts about connection and communication. I know that people feel like we are a disconnected and uncommunicative society right now. I tend to agree. But with awareness, compassion, and embracing one another openly, we can find that connection once again.
Open communication brings about connection; and when we feel connected, we communicate with ease.
Share your thoughts below.