The social isolation and suffering brought on by the pandemic have shone a light on just how much we need others and the benefit of strong communities. Empowering ourselves and each other can make people not only more resilient but also happier, healthier, and more creative. Consider what it means to elderly people unable to easily leave their homes when neighbors bring them groceries — or what it means to the neighbors who then get a chance to share meaningful conversations that give them a new perspective on their lives.
To empower each other, people need to reflect on how they can spread purpose, resilience, and joy each day to strengthen their communities.
Empowerment: Succeeding Individually and as a Community
Empowerment is the process of becoming stronger, more purposeful, and capable of achieving more. It elevates both individuals and communities. When people achieve self-empowerment, they affect those around them; they become models of what’s possible, inspiring others to find their own paths to self-empowerment. They also have a greater capacity to contribute to their communities.
For example, the achievements of first-generation college graduates can inspire others who would be the first in their family to pursue higher education, and first-generation graduates are uniquely equipped to support and guide those students.
When people seek out ways to empower one another, they build more caring and equitable relationships. This benefits everyone. It also creates a greater sense of belonging within a community and helps individuals discover their unique gifts and talents. This gives everyone a better chance to realize their potential.
So, what does building empowered communities take? Mindfully adopting practices that empower others is a great place to start.
1. Share Knowledge
Knowledge can be transformative. It can lead to visions and inspire change. Sharing knowledge also brings people together. So, after discovering a helpful book, tell people about it. Discuss ideas from the book to come up with new or deeper understandings.
Such conversations can expose people to different ways of thinking that help them grow. Additionally, they can teach people everything from how to develop healthier eating habits to ways to make an impression on a prospective employer.
Every day, people encounter useful, problem-solving information through podcasts, websites, and daily activities. To eliminate distractions when studying, someone may discover a Chrome extension that blocks time-wasting websites. When searching for a method to keep track of their responsibilities, individuals may find an app that makes them more efficient.
Sharing this knowledge can help individuals empower each other to improve their study habits, the efficiency of their workouts, or the quality of their resumes, for example. Simultaneously, they can forge stronger relationships with the people in their lives.
2. Share Your Story
Talking openly about personal struggles and triumphs takes courage, but doing so can be both liberating and empowering. It can also serve as a bridge that connects people and drives away loneliness. Learning about others’ experiences can make people feel less isolated and more hopeful.
Sharing personal stories can help people resolve feelings of shame or embarrassment associated with difficult experiences. Sometimes, simply hearing someone else express similar emotions or responses to an experience can help people remove the stigma they’ve attached to the situation. This can even empower individuals with the strength needed to overcome or confront their greatest challenges.
For example, when women started sharing stories about experiences of sexual abuse and sexual harassment, it sparked an entire movement that empowered people across the country to speak out.
3. Listen to Other People’s Stories
Listening to others with real attention and empathy can provide them with a meaningful and affirming experience. When people feel heard, they also feel valued. Both feelings are empowering. They encourage people to contribute their ideas and express themselves openly in conversations at work, in school, and with loved ones.
Open communication tends to foster cooperative and collaborative relationships between people, allowing them to accomplish more and with less conflict. The open communication created by exhibiting good listening skills also gives people more opportunities to get feedback and brainstorm solutions to problems.
For example, open communication can enable students to share constructive criticism that improves their assignments. It can also make it easier for friends to resolve their conflicts or for neighbors to start a community watch program.
4. Stand Up for Others
Empowerment involves standing up for one’s own rights and the rights of others. When individuals speak out against injustices or mistreatment, they not only support their values; they also can effect real change that brings greater equality to everyone and protects entire communities from abuse. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
In recognition of that interconnectedness, people should consider ways they can promote justice and equity while also keeping in mind their skills and passions. Individuals with a love of athletics may want to volunteer with an organization that organizes empowerment through sports programming for at-risk youth. People passionate about saving the planet may choose to become environmental justice activists.
Standing up for others doesn’t necessarily require people to join movements or loudly renounce behaviors or acts they oppose. Sometimes, it can simply mean offering positive words to someone who received harsh treatment.
Saying something like “I’m sorry you were treated that way; you didn’t deserve it” can have a powerful impact on a person who was belittled during a work meeting or class discussion. Such support lets a person know not everyone agrees with what happened. This can provide people comfort and empower them to stand up for themselves in the future.
Standing up for others may also mean showing courage in the workplace to challenge unethical practices, such as misleading consumers about products, or confront bullying behavior. This may involve calling it out in the moment, helping coworkers document incidents, or filing formal complaints with management.
5. Embrace Positivity
Positivity significantly affects the mind and body. More than just a catchphrase, positive thinking can decrease stress, boost immunity, and increase a person’s ability to analyze. This can support creativity and give people the courage to try out new things and take risks.
When people nurture positive emotions, the body releases serotonin, which generates feelings of happiness and calm. In this state of mind, individuals typically have more energy and their brains have heightened abilities to process information.
Those who embrace positivity not only empower themselves. Their positivity frequently empowers those around them as well. Positivity breeds positivity, providing people with energy, enthusiasm, and encouragement. This can help motivate others and give them the boost they need to keep pushing forward through a trying personal experience, a challenging class, or uncertain times.
6. Build Support Networks
Strong support systems help individuals cope with life’s challenges. They can also enhance self-esteem, ease the effects of emotional distress, and even lower a person’s blood pressure. A support network of family, friends, coworkers, and classmates often plays an instrumental role in people’s ability to achieve their goals.
For example, supportive classmates can help each other learn concepts, study for exams, and apply for scholarships. Past and current job contacts can provide information about promising work positions, career fairs, and professional conferences. Friends and family can offer everything from financial support to help finding housing to advice on good doctors.
Ultimately, strong networks expand a person’s access to useful information. They also allow individuals to pool their resources and skills, which increases opportunities for everyone.
To develop a strong support network, cast a wide net. Consider reaching out to neighbors, a child’s teachers, or a spouse’s coworkers — but be sure to build reciprocal relationships. Support networks work best when nobody makes more withdrawals than deposits.
Joining associations, clubs, or student organizations connected to your interests and goals can also help develop a strong support network. For example, individuals studying physical therapy may want to join their university’s physical therapy club. An aspiring entrepreneur may consider getting involved with the local chamber of commerce.
Build a World That Lifts Us All
Empowering those around us can help manifest humanity’s greatest potential. When we empower each other, we build a world that lifts us all. Education provides one of the clearest pathways toward empowerment.