Leaning Back Into Humanity
Of the positions I’ve had the privilege of holding, being a barista in my early 20’s reinforced what it means to be human. I’m not talking about that first sip of coffee that makes us feel human and able to start the day. I’m referring to the conversations and daily check-ins that filled the otherwise silent spaces between making and serving cups of coffee. The laughter, small jokes, weekend plans, and sometimes devastating news that required all things to be dropped to run around the counter and hug a stranger- reminding them that they are not alone. I’m referring to the names that belonged to the humans that ordered each cup of coffee, the life stories that followed after weeks of planting seeds for strangers to trust that when the words “How are you?” fell from my lips, it was intentional. It was a space where they could truly say how they were and someone cared about the response. The space was held, I leaned into the vulnerability of whatever they carried, invested myself into who they are, what they wanted from life and how they coped when things didn’t go quite right. No one hired me to celebrate wins for coaches and athletes, to cry with customers that experienced loss, to try to learn about the work of graduate students and business professionals. No one asked me to prioritize human connection, but when you invest in a community of people without expectation, trust builds and that community and network of once strangers will support you through all of your endeavors.
Human connection and building a community doesn’t simply apply to small coffee shops- I’m not asking you to run to your nearest barista or to tell your life story to a stranger in a public place. What I am asking is for all of us to take a step back and reassess the quality of the relationships that we build. We’ve all felt the painful experience of going to work on a rough day and having a boss or coworker remind you that personal lives are left at the front door before starting a shift. We’ve all experienced the shaming that ensues when an idea is spoken and quickly shot down- inevitably reminding us that we need to pocket our creativity to fall in line with expectations. We’ve experienced mistakes and detrimental feedback that leaves us questioning our capabilities and self-worth. What would happen if we stopped shaming, blaming, and forcing each other to pocket what makes us human? What would happen if we take a moment to actively listen and hold space when we know a friend or coworker is struggling?
What would happen if we prioritized human connection over productivity quotas that render people as parts of a machine rather than whole people with valuable perspectives?
When we stop forcing each other to pocket who we are, to shelve our vulnerabilities, to hide our weakness and silence unsure voices- we open the door to endless possibilities for communication, creativity, innovation and success. The culture is shifted from one of shame and disconnection to one that hands each person the courage to show up wholeheartedly and emphasizes the power of connection and communication. When we stop simply acknowledging each other’s existence and investing into our people with time, effort and empathy- there are no losers. Because at the end of the day, when a crisis hits, we won’t remember the job titles, salaries, or the endless work that awaited us all each day. You don’t look towards those that criticize or shame, you lean into the teams and community of people that offer their support and accept you as you come. We lean into those that allow us to embrace vulnerability, uncertainty, and courage. We remember those that dared to reach into the darkness to bring us back into the light. As a future industrial and organizational psychologist inspired by the impact of wholehearted human connection, my hope is that we celebrate, inspire and support the courage it takes to show up fully as ourselves in the organizations we choose to move through. My dream is that we recognize the power of being fully human.