Image via Shutterstock Even before COVID-19, loneliness and isolation were already an epidemic. Humans shrink to hide shame.
Image via Shutterstock

This is how you can create deeper intimacy during the time of social distancing.

As a Latina, my community is my birthright. I am constantly surrounded by friends and family. I thrive in our “togethering”— and now we are forced to be apart. My parents are abroad. Now more than ever I feel the weight of our distance. I worry about the economic fragility and lack of infrastructure to care for my loved ones. 

Even before COVID-19, loneliness and isolation were already an epidemic. Many people had to sort through their emotions alone, especially those who have experienced deep trauma or whose voices have been repressed by the dominant narratives in our cultures. Humans tend to shrink to hide shame.

Design a Safe and Confidential Space to Connect 

Back in 2018 I was feeling alone, struggling with my self-confidence at work and experiencing lots of fear after becoming a mother. One day I decided to invite a group of women into my home to talk about these topics in a safe and confidential space. That experiment grew, and soon after I partnered with a dear friend (and one of the first attendees) and we created what is now Dinner Confidential — a global community that hosts monthly themed conversations over dinner.

Each month we explore a different social, often tabooed, topic — anything from power to sexuality to money with (mostly) women around the world, and then we share our findings via articles and posts. What started as an experiment is now a flourishing communal platform; Dinner Confidential has hosted 140+ dinners in over 25 cities worldwide. 

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For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been hosting our dinners as online gatherings. People around the world join to share how they are truly feeling at this moment. While we each have our unique stories, this pandemic has highlighted just how interconnected we all are. 

In this exploration, we’ve uncovered two things that can help anyone open up and establish a deeper connection with ourselves and our communities: we need to feel safe, and we must learn to become better listeners.

Honor the connection between Safety and Authenticity

To feel safe, you must trust that the information you share will be received with kindness and, if necessary, confidentiality. Therefore, you will be more willing to speak your truth with clarity and decisiveness.

Become a Better Listener

 “Don’t we naturally know how to listen?” Well, most of the time, when we listen, we are actually thinking about what we want to say next instead of focusing on the other person. Perhaps a friend is telling you a story about their recent breakup, and you are already crafting the perfect advice or you are immediately thinking about that time your own heart was broken. 

While both of those responses come from a good place — sometimes we need help or to hear a #MeToo story — the reality is that many times all we need to feel really connected, is to be fully listened to.

Rules to Capitalize On Your Virtual Gathering Talent

Latinos are known as natural connectors and gatherers. How can we use our innate gift during this time? 

Plan a virtual gathering and invite your family and friends. But instead of talking over each other, as many of us tend to do, try following these rules instead:

  • Give each person a set amount of time to share their story. 5-8 minutes and ideally no more than 10 people per call.

  • No judging, making fun, or offering advice during or after someone’s share.

  • While a person is talking, everyone on the call listens with their full presence.

Think of a few questions beforehand that you’d like to explore with the group. For example, have each person bring a picture from their childhood and ask them to share a memory of that time or have everyone share what feelings and thoughts they are experiencing right now.

This is also a great opportunity to have even more provocative conversations, like politics. We tend not to hear one another when discussing different political perspectives. What if we embrace a bit of discomfort so we can share and listen to how we’ve been truly feeling by the government’s response? Or share our worries — and hopes — for the future of this country?

You may be surprised to discover new things from people you thought you knew well. You may laugh together. You may cry together. You may create a new vision for the world together. You may all remember that we are not alone despite being physically apart and that together, we will get through this — because together is how we thrive. 

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