What makes a relationship feel meaningful? What makes us gravitate toward a certain friend over and over? Know that a partner is 'the one'? Connect with a colleague over more than just a spreadsheet?
Today I'd like to share with you some of the science, and the heart, behind what makes a person feel able to establish a genuine and healthy relationship with someone else. What are the ingredients to that connection? Read on below, and take time to consider where these ingredients might be in your own closest relationships. What characteristics ring true for you? What could be enhanced?
Most of this work comes from a fabulous, raw, and brave researcher named Brene Brown. I came to Brene's work late - about four years ago. A close colleague referenced her video on vulnerability as "life changing." Vulnerability? Hmmm, sounds interesting, but I'm not sure what you mean and plus I'm busy just helping people and stuff so maybe sometime I'll get around to watching it but not right now. Talk to you later!
It was only this past year that I began to dive into her now famous Ted Talk on "The Power of Vulnerability" and my world felt like it completely opened up. I was hungry for more. This lady made sense! Plus I loved the way in which she delivered her content. Her humanness was addicting.
Who is Brene, you ask? She's a researcher, author, and speaker whose studies focus on courage, vulnerability, worthiness and shame (ref: www.brenebrown.com/about). In her now famous Ted Talk on "The Power of Vulnerability" she notes that
“Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives meaning to our lives. BUT
In order for connection to happen, we need to allow ourselves to be seen – to be vulnerable."
Now… it used to be that the way to connect was to be physically with people. In person. But with the increasing use of social media and our attachment to our phones, we're relating to each other quite differently now than we ever were. (Thinking critically about the role of technology in our relationships is a whole 'nother blog post that I will definitely be writing soon!) But for now, I want to think about what it is that happens when you're together with someone else important to you.
To feel connected to another person as a human, we need to feel worthy of their attention and energy. And at the same time we need to not feel a fear that they might judge or reject us in any way. Think about the people in your life with whom you feel the most comfortable. Do they make you feel this way?
Brene talks about the following four components as essential in genuine, fulfilling relationships, and I've provided additional description and commentary to help you better understand how each aspect might fit for you and how you relate to another person in your life.
1. Courage: You feel brave enough to share who you truly are. You divulge your truths, are genuine to what you know and care about, you might worry about what the other thinks but you still feel its more important to be congruent with yourself. You take emotional risks when they feel important and open yourself up to be seen and experienced as the person you are.
2. Compassion: Means you’re kind to yourself and to others. You listen to another without jumping every time to what it might mean for you. You're open to the truths of another's experience without minimizing, negating, or judging. You demonstrate empathy by showing that you understand what it might be like for the other. You give another the space to be themselves as much as possible to do so.
3. Connection: A powerful force of feeling that happens as a result of being completely yourself with someone else and having that be a truly positive thing. You enjoy the other and the other enjoys you. You feel seen as completely worthy. You feel safe to say and do; comfortable being yourself. You feel that you are understanding each other on a level that's important to who you are as people.
4. Vulnerability: Holding the belief that you can be fully yourself and still deserve love and respect. The ability to expose who you are in ways that sometimes feel uncomfortable, revealing, or leaving yourself open to judgment, but doing so with the conviction that this will be received as an asset, a strength. The inner and steady conviction that being you is a positive thing,
Now, I'm wondering if you'd do a little exercise with me.
Close your eyes and think about the one person in this world to whom you feel the closest. Got them in your mind? Open your eyes (ok you had to to read that).
Now carefully consider the following questions. Imagine interactions and instances with your person that demonstrate your answers to the questions below:
-How have you been imperfect with them?
-Where is compassion in that relationship? What lets you know that it’s a compassionate relationship? Are you kind to yourself in the relationship and does the relationship allow you to be as kind to yourself as you are to the other?
-How strong is that connection? What’s powerful about that relationship?
-What is it like to be vulnerable with that person? How have you had to be vulnerable with them?
-And, most importantly, is this relationship one that brings you joy?
What is it like to reflect on the power of all of those things coming together to form a connected and meaningful relationship? My guess is that there were some pretty strong emotions that you felt – those are the feelings of love, positivity, and joy – and they can be so overwhelming that it can be hard to even put them into words.
And as a side note, I wonder what it could do for you today to tell that person you were thinking of just how much they mean to you, and more importantly, why.
Brene Brown's Ted Talk on the Power of Vulnerability.
Lauren L. Drago, MSEd, LMHC, LPC is the founder of Lauren Drago Therapy in Old Saybrook, CT and in greater CT, NY & PA. She specializes in working with smart, insightful and capable women to overcome stress, anxiety, loss of identity, self-limiting beliefs, perfectionism, marriage strain, and the pressure of "trying to do it all." Lauren has a passion for helping others to achieve the happy, fulfilling, productive, and meaningful life they deserve by changing how they experience and understand their world. She believes that every woman can and should live out her personal definition of her own best life. Follow Lauren on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Call (860) 339-6515 for your free initial 15-minute consultation.