9.5
April 28, 2020

What’s Your Number? Brené Brown’s Method for Dialing Up a Better Connection.

Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon

We’re being called to evolve our conditioned responses as a result of the impacts of COVID-19. 

Our typical, “Hi, how are you” needs to elevate because people deserve and require more profound understanding and sincerity during this time. Fortunately, a tool that Brené Brown uses in her marriage inspires how we can make this leap for one another.

To gauge how the other person is feeling toward the end of a workday, Brené Brown and her husband ask one another how full, in percentage terms, their personal, proverbial tanks are. They then adjust their plans for the remainder of the day, depending on how far from 100 their combined percentage is.  

We, as a society, can also make a simple, specific change in how we communicate in our daily lives that can result in profound developments in our relationships with one another and ourselves. The shift requires asking a more probing question than our rote, “How are you?” What we’re genuinely trying to gather when we ask that the question is, “What’s your bandwidth?” 

To be clear, this interpretation is not referring to internet speed (although that is undoubtedly a legit concern at this time). 

The latter check-in question has much more potency—the quality necessary to reveal the intense nature of emotional states in our current paradigm. Specifically, it requests an honest and thorough self-evaluation which cannot be captured by reciting a generic, auto-pilot type of response.

And, whereas “How are you?” elicits words as a response, “What’s your bandwidth?” seeks a numerical response. 

By keeping with the saying numbers don’t lie, we likely gain a more accurate sense of how someone is feeling. 

They take stock of their energy, stress, thinking patterns, responsibilities, grief, degree of personal needs being met, fears, and nourishment and then put a number value on it (a scale of 0-10).

It may seem like semantics, but the benefits of asking the appropriate question to ascertain one’s state of being are significant. First, focused language facilitates connection more easily because the questioner has gently invited the responder to be more honest and vulnerable. No one can question that we all crave meaningful relationships, especially now, and one of the most direct paths to connection is vulnerability. 

Next, learning one’s bandwidth number encourages a follow-up question or a statement (“Oh, what makes you a six today?”), both of which demonstrate a higher level of emotional investment and attention. 

Additionally, the questioner is more likely to feel empathy for the other person if they report a low number, a “four,” for example, as opposed to an unenthusiastic “Okay” reply.

The power of empathy is not to be underestimated; it is the quality that best allows people to feel seen, heard, and understood. No doubt, these experiences can be game-changing for someone going through a hard time.  

To illustrate, suppose you run into someone at the grocery store on your rare outing beyond your neighborhood, and you learn that they are a “four” that day. In this case, another benefit of our refined questioning is that, although it is simple, the number response is quite informative and might motivate you to follow up with the individual later on. Indeed, this is the support that is less likely to develop from an expected, rote response.  

If we adopt better questioning as a habit, a fantastic new normal can emerge—people having and expressing more concern for others’ well-being like Brené Brown (she’s an influencer worth paying attention to).

Reinventing how we check in with people means that we could alter the unwritten rule that says “How are you?” is reserved strictly for others. Instead, the shift to asking “What’s your bandwidth?” should take root with questioning ourselves first. That could be new territory for many, but exploring it has excellent potential.  

For one, discovering (and sharing) our bandwidth number increases the likelihood that we begin to offer compassion to ourselves (when our number is low). That is huge because when we practice self-compassion, we begin to heal.  

From that space, amazing things unfold. As we pursue a path of healing, the undermining inner critic in our mind loses power over us. Consequently, we see that we don’t need to be so hard on ourselves. Talk about game-changing! 

What follows is renewed energy and spaciousness. From these qualities, creativity elevates, and we can solve problems more effectively.  

That’s quite a ripple effect from just quantifying personal bandwidth!

The process is not linear, of course, as our number differs depending on our circumstances. Extreme fluctuation reduces over time as we engage in that crucial beginning step—self-compassion.

We’re witnessing many different ripple effects because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The one I just described is more subtle, but it is powerful and well worth initiating.  

This chain reaction starts with a number—the one within you.  

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