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In Brene Brown’s latest book, Braving the Wilderness, she introduces the concept of sorting. She says, “The world feels high lonesome and heartbroken to me right now. We’ve sorted ourselves into factions based on our politics and ideology. We’ve turned away from one another and toward blame and rage. We’re lonely and untethered. And scared.”

She goes on to describe what we’ve all probably felt individually on our social media feeds, at the holiday dinner table with extended family, and even with neighbors and work colleagues. In these situations, many stay on the edges and don’t try to engage in any meaningful dialogue to truly understand what the other person is thinking or feeling. We play safe. We stay quiet.

Because we’ve gone through this sorting process, what we see and hear in our world is likely carefully curated to alleviate pain and extend pleasure. While this all makes sense and is a natural reaction to dissent and discomfort, what it also does is allow us to more easily make assumptions and place stereotypes where they don’t belong.

And it is making us feel lonely.

Brown reports that In 1980 approximately 20 percent of Americans reported feeling lonely. Today, it’s more than double that percentage.

Loneliness is not a normal state. Humans are physiologically and psychologically wired for connection. She cites another study that provides this startling fact: Living with air pollution increases your odds of dying early by 5%, obesity = 20%, excessive drinking = 30%. Living with loneliness increases our odds of dying early by 45%.

If sorting is what got us to this place, the likely solution to get us out of this place is to shake things up. It’s to step into the discomfort of conversation with someone who we don’t share political or social ideologies. It’s reconnecting with people who we’ve let ourselves fall out of touch with because they posted too many things on social media we didn’t like.

It’s talking to more people, longer.

How are you feeling about the possibility of talking to more people, longer? Does “talking to more people, longer” make you nervous? If so, reach out to me. I help people uncover their network gaps and devise a plan of action. I’d love to open your eyes to the possibilities of letting people into your life – whether for a single coffee or a long-term mentorship.

52 Weeks of Meaningful Connections is offered by Small Town Leadership. If you would like to see how much progress you can make toward making our big world feel like a smaller place, sign up to receive these articles on a weekly basis.

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Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.

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