Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides
We live in enormously polarized times. From politics to race, religion, gender, and class, division runs rampant. In 2020, 40 percent of each political party said that supporters of the opposing party were “downright evil.” In 2019, hate crimes reached a ten-year high in the United States. One in five Americans suffers from chronic loneliness, with teenagers and young adults at increasing risk. Social ties at work, at school, and in our communities have frayed. How did we become so alienated? Why is our sense of belonging so undermined? What if there were a set of science-backed techniques for navigating modern social life that could help us overcome our differences, create empathy, and forge lasting connections even across divides? What if there were a useful set of takeaways for managers and educators of all stripes to create connection even during challenging times?
In Belonging, Stanford University professor Geoffrey L. Cohen applies his and others’ groundbreaking research to the myriad problems of communal existence and offers concrete solutions for improving daily life at work, in school, in our homes, and in our communities. We all feel a deep need to belong, but most of us don’t fully appreciate that need in others. Often inadvertently, we behave in ways that threaten others’ sense of belonging. Yet small acts that establish connection, brief activities such as reflecting on our core values, and a suite of practices that Cohen defines as “situation-crafting” have been shown to lessen political polarization, improve motivation and performance in school and work, combat racism in our communities, enhance health and well-being, and unleash the potential in ourselves and in our relationships. Belonging is essential for managers, educators, parents, administrators, caregivers, and everyone who wants those around them to thrive.