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“None of us is as smart as all of us,” is a proverb attributed to an unknown Japanese author from many years ago. Yet today, perhaps even more so with our political divisiveness and pandemic threats, it validates the significance of working as a team in personal and professional endeavors and generating connectiveness with others, no matter where we are in life.

But when we’re in college or technical school expanding our skillset and knowledge, many don’t contemplate the importance of building career and personal networks. According to Angela Scalpello, a highly sought-after business performance coach based in New York City, women must change that mindset and do it early in their educational careers.

“It’s critical we understand the benefits of social connection. Yes, we accomplish things on our own but we accomplish more in groups. We learn about others and, in learning about others, we learn about ourselves,” she shared. “We should learn about other peoples’ lives because we can learn how to approach problems through other perspectives and other drives that are similar and dissimilar to ours. Unless we build social networks, we not only lose the gift of learning about others and from others, we lose the opportunity to learn more about ourselves.”

Researchers have established a psychological or genetic pull behind connectiveness. Humans are mentally wired to be part of groups. “Our needs have evolved as we’ve evolved as human beings. For primitive man and woman, there was safety in hunting with a group, a greater odd that you would be fed if you’re all together. Those needs persisted and still exist,” she noted. “The need to belong, social scientists tell us, is even bigger than the need for security. Feeling that you don’t belong creates psychological pain and physical trauma.”

Her thoughts are echoed by the 19th surgeon general of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who authored Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World. He writes that it is obvious humans are social creatures, and the nation is experiencing a current crisis of loneliness. He declares that being lonely is a public health concern, a root cause and contributor to many of our epidemics, from alcohol and drug addiction to depression and anxiety.

“Dr. Murthy writes that people with strong relationships are 50 percent less likely to die early and that loneliness can be the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Being lonely posed an even greater risk of dying early than obesity did,” Angela commented. “He identifies three types of loneliness: intimate loneliness, longing for a partner to share a deep bond; and social loneliness, the need for quality friendships. The one that especially resonates because of the pandemic is collective loneliness, yearning for a community of like-minded people. Having a strong inner circle of friends is a better predictor of happiness and health than either social class or wealth.”

A notable opportunity for “belonging” in college can be Greek organizations, but a few have found themselves in controversial situations. On another level, critics claim social sororities are about “paying for friendships.” But Angela points out that at their core, sororities are about academic support, career opportunity, leadership development and community.

“When you’re a member of a sorority or another organization, you have a vast network you can tap into,” she remarked. “Sororities and fraternities do come with a cost, but you can’t buy friendships. You can buy the illusion of friendship but that’s not real friendship.”

Angela goes on to explain the human need for connection through emotional intelligence, empathy and social awareness, critical not only to people but to the organizations they support. “There’s a reason why we gather in person. We want to look people in the eye; we want to shake their hands. Have a cup of coffee and have that give-and-take that’s much easier in person. The need to belong is very strong, and nobody wants to feel like an outsider. Nobody wants to be the person in the corner while everyone else is laughing, talking and gesturing,” she stated. “Companies talk about diversity and inclusion and creating a culture of belonging. If we’re trying to build a culture of belonging, we need to look at how we hire people; how we onboard them; how we set up meetings; how we set up the physical space. Belonging is so important.”

Understanding the power of connectiveness and how a person uses it to drive positivity in careers or personal lives can push individuals into another realm of success and happiness. “Community is critical in terms of support. It’s a pond in which to fish for opportunities,” Angela commented. “That’s what community is all about. People will come to your aid and will ask things of you and you of them. It’s the power of community and the power of belonging.” ■