Have you ever thought about the fact that watching thousands of peoples’ lives unfold on the Internet or riding home on a crowded subway car somehow makes you feel more alone? According to Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW, Americans are experiencing a spiritual crisis that’s rooted in loneliness.
It’s one of the first things she digs into in her book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. That’s one reason it was the perfect choice for last month’s Nutritious Life Studio Book Club. The Book Club, moderated by Keri, is one of the many benefits of becoming Nutritious Life Certified that focuses on building a supportive community.
Before you can access community, though, Brown argues that you’ve got to find true belonging, which is more about the freedom to be yourself than it is to be someone for other people. If you can tap into vulnerability and do that, you’ll be able to create stronger connections with people around you.
Here are three big takeaways from the book, about avoiding loneliness and building healthier relationships (with ourselves and others).
3 Things We Learned From “Braving the Wilderness”
1. To truly connect, you have to be vulnerable
In Brown’s world, vulnerability is sort of the key to everything. (She did a famous TED Talk on this point.) Vulnerability is about being brave enough to open yourself up, to share your thoughts and feelings without worrying about how someone will respond. When we try not to be vulnerable, close ourselves off as we brace for a response we’re afraid of, instead of actually allowing for empathy.
This topic is especially relevant to our community of wellness professionals, like nutritionists and health coaches. Practitioners make themselves vulnerable to help their clients, and clients have to tap into vulnerability to open up and dig into their health issues.
We love the idea that embracing that vulnerability will make us braver people who are more able to connect to each other.
2. It’s harder to hate close up
One of Brown’s principles in the book is “People are hard to hate close up. Move in.” This felt so relevant in the age of social media. We watch what people post online, make judgments, and get angry. Maybe we even engage with them in a Twitter war and then go to bed upset about politics.
The problem is that when people are far away, it’s easy to be mad at them for having a life that looks better than ours or opinions and values that don’t align with our own. When you’re actually confronted with that person face-to-face, however, you’re confronted with their humanity and it’s easier to find common ground. That might lead to face-to-face conflict, but leaning into that can be a good thing. This could apply even to your closest relationships: How easy is it to be mean to your partner via text, but then when faced with him or her in person, you realize you were being overly harsh?
3. Conflict transformation is better than conflict resolution
In a fight or disagreement, we assume that the only option is to resolve the whole thing, meaning one person agrees that the other person was right and both people end up on the same side. Or, you never resolve it and give up. But Brown talks to a professor who says it’s not always about agreeing. Instead of resolving the conflict, you can transform it in a way that leads to a place of mutual understanding. You might still not agree on the issue at the end, but you will have evolved in your understanding of each other. You may even end up in a new place, where you see each others’ viewpoints with new perspective. It’s like the evolved version of “agree to disagree.
(Featured Photo: Shutterstock)