“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship. ”
– Brené Brown
Author Brené Brown studies human connection and says that, “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” A research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social work, she has spent the past 13 years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Let’s take a look at what it means to truly connect with another person.
The Energy of Connection
When talking about energy, I often ask people to think of a boomerang. The energy that you put out there often comes back to you. And, what you are feeling about yourself is often what you put out there. Many times, people don’t feel worthy. They feel like they put their best foot forward, but that fear of being unworthy is in the back of their head. They’re afraid of being “discovered.” In a dating situation, for example, you try to be your best self. Sometimes, that best self isn’t authentic. If you have insecurities, you hide them and you try to show your “Sunday best.” You’re always afraid that someone is going to see your “weekday self.” It’s an issue of perfectionism. You think others expect you to be perfect, which creates insecurity.
When we give ourselves permission to be human, we give ourselves permission to be imperfect. We need to give other people permission to be human as well.
Giving and Receiving Without Judgement
We all judge and we do it every day. The human mind has the ability to have 30 to 60 thoughts per minute. Somehow, we choose which thoughts we give life to and we do that with words. It’s important to choose the thoughts that we give life to―that’s when we live with intention. Choosing what our intention is at any given moment is a conscious decision.
How can we learn to meet people where they are instead of where we think they should be?
I think we all look for spirituality and for me, the core of that is giving and receiving love.
If our intention is to give and receive love on many different levels, then the energy we put out is a loving intention. Living with love is living with forgiveness for not being perfect―both for ourselves and for others. The key to connection is allowing yourself to be vulnerable; however, at the same time, we have to do that without the expectation of judgement―either on others or on ourselves. We have to allow others to be imperfect and allow ourselves to be imperfect. The only way to allow yourself to be vulnerable is to know that you won’t be criticized. So, we must create emotional safety for the other person by loving without judgement.
Sustenance and Strength
John Gottman’s study of newlywed couples was able to predict which couples would divorce, based on their body language. The people who turned away from each other and used critical language were the ones who were headed for an unhappy marriage, while the couples who had open body language and supportive words toward each other were the ones who stayed married.
In couples counseling, it’s often “what he did” or “what she did,” along with much angst and animosity about how that person hurt them. Instead of thinking of ways to support the other person and help them be their best self, the thought is, “They’re not helping me be the best me!”
If someone is supporting you, you need to return that support. Reciprocity creates positive energy and allows both parties to draw strength from the relationship.
Vulnerability and self-acceptance are required in order to truly connect with other people. If you don’t feel that you’re able to make connections in your life or if you’re seeking more meaning and purpose in your life, look for a solution-focused therapist who can help you make changes.
You might also be interested in:
The Power of Vulnerability – Brené Brown’s TED talk.