How to connect with others—and why it’s important.
Brodkin is a professor of psychiatry and founder and director of the Adult Autism Spectrum Program at Penn Medicine, and Pallathra is a researcher and therapist currently pursuing her doctorate in clinical psychology. In this collaboration, the authors write that “to be aware of our own state of mind and body while also tuning in and connecting” with other people is “perhaps the most needed, and most neglected, human capacity.” There is a vital need to pay attention, to be seen and heard without distraction, and to thwart the countless misunderstandings that can occur every day. The authors tap into a wide range of disciplines—among them, neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, music, literature, and mindfulness—to bolster their argument about the importance of forming the “genuine, lasting connections” that are so often “elusive.” They write with a passionate, encouraging, come-and-join-me quality, showing how we can find attunement through the exercise of its basic components: relaxed awareness, a calm and attentive focus on your body, environment, and company; listening, being observant to the other person and your reactions; understanding, the recognition and appreciation of another’s point of view and intentions; and mutual responsiveness, maintaining connection through the vagaries of conversation. The authors wisely express the complexity and at times counterintuitive nature of these components—the balancing act between calmness and tight focus, listening to yourself and another person at the same time, expressing both emotional and cognitive empathy—but they provide examples and exercises to enable their use. The exercises, actual physical actions that promote synchronicity and proportional response, don’t lend themselves to the authors’ verbal detailing, but they direct readers to their website for video demonstrations. Though occasionally repetitive, the text will help readers achieve a more centered state of mind: “what T.S. Eliot called ‘the still point in a turning world.’ ”
A dynamic approach to focusing, connecting, and developing mutual understanding.