We’ve been told that to make it in a man’s world, to be competitive and taken seriously, we have to become more like men. Certainly it is useful for us to claim our power, to be assertive, and to be involved in whatever fields of study and work suit our talents and interests. Alongside cooperative men, it’s important to also reclaim our power to nurture and connect. We’re seeing an increasing number of studies showing the health and longevity benefits of friendships and sense of community, and also studies showing how much our sense of isolation and loneliness has grown in the United States.
A century ago, there was more obvious practical value of women’s natural capacity to form and maintain relationships, because it was sometimes necessary to rely on neighbors when most of society lived in or near small towns. Then during the industrial revolution, with so many people leaving the farms and entering factories in cities, work culture became more competitive and more about a rigid hierarchy. Societal interactions became less about affiliation, more about dominance, less about camaraderie and more about compulsion. In church or community groups, even in friend groups, there’s sometimes subtle or not-so-subtle one-upmanship.
Yet there’s often a central figure in these groups, a connector and hub, who has the skills and temperament to help patch up rifts and keep people interacting, which allows for time and positive interactions to ease hurt feelings. Brene Brown suggests that we develop a thick skin against critics who are not risking any vulnerability themselves, while for the nurturing and constructive feedback we need, we remain open to a few who have earned our trust. We can practice our forgiving and gentle honesty skills with a trusted group, to create a buffer from the competitiveness and isolation. As we do this, tho it is challenging to persist at it, our own lives can become more richly connected and loving. #community