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Missing Each Other
How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections
- Read in 13 minutes
- Audio & text available
- Contains 8 key ideas
Missing Each Other (2021) is a scientifically sound exploration of human connection. This wide-ranging primer explains how to truly bond with others in our fast-paced world.
Key idea 1 of 8
Attunement helps us build strong and intimate social bonds.
Imagine you knock on a friend’s door. But when she answers, you can see that something’s off. You don’t get the usual grin and hug – instead, she greets you with a quiet hello and a slight frown. As you step inside, she mentions that her pet has just died.
How do you react? Well, that depends. Maybe your friend is devastated by the loss and wants to sob, mourn, and be comforted. She may need a shoulder to cry on. Or perhaps she’s upset but doesn’t want to dwell on the pain. So, instead, you lift the mood by telling stories and jokes.
In either case, you’re sensing her emotional state and reacting appropriately. This process is called attunement and it’s an essential part of human relationships.
The key message here is: Attunement helps us build strong and intimate social bonds.
Humans are social creatures. Over the millennia, we’ve relied on mutual cooperation to survive and thrive. As a result, we’ve evolved a deep need to connect with one another. This tendency is apparent right from birth – just look at how infants gaze at the faces of their caregivers, how they reach for that friendly smile. As we age, we refine this impulse into social skills that help us build happy and healthy relationships.
Attunement is a social skill that lies right at the foundation of all human contact. At its most basic, it’s the power to sense and understand our own emotions and the emotions of others. This skill helps us align the two in a productive way. When two people are attuned to each other, they share a profound connection and intimacy.
Attunement can come in many forms; it can encompass the full spectrum of human emotions. It could look like a parent and child playing and laughing together. Or like two academics engaged in a deep and engrossing discussion. When jazz musicians fall into an improvisational groove, this is also a form of attunement. In each of these situations, the people involved are united because they’re sharing an intense emotional bond.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, moments of attunement are rare. Our busy lives allow little time to truly connect with each other, and new technologies like social media encourage us to have fleeting, superficial interactions. These circumstances leave many feeling lost and lonely. However, with a little effort, it’s possible to bring attunement back into your life. We’ll explore how in the next blinks.