Sidewalk Talk

Dr. Niobe Way on solving the crisis of connection | Dr. Niobe Way

May 4, 2021

For the last century or so, we’ve been told that we—humans—are the problem, not the society in which we live. What if the opposite was actually true? Dr. Niobe Way thinks so, and she’s ready to tell you why. On this episode of The Sidewalk Talk podcast, Traci sits down for a conversation with NYU professor and founder of the Project for the Advancement of our Common Humanity (PACH), Dr. Niobe Way. 

Dr. Niobe founded PACH after spending years talking with students in middle school classrooms, specifically boys, about their feelings when it comes to friendship, life, and connection. Throughout their conversation, Traci and Niobe tackle the many issues embedded within our culture that work to de-humanize us, Niobe’s newest initiative—The Listening Project—and the power of transformative interviewing, and the scientific evidence pointing to the current crisis of connection we’re facing not only in the U.S., but around the world. If you’ve ever wondered if a single person determined to listen and not judge the individual sitting across from them can change the world, this is your proof that listening can in fact restore our humanity and change our culture for the better. Sit with Traci and Niobe as they engage in this heavy, yet hopeful, conversation. 


Episode Milestones

[00:07] Intro 

[03:07] Meet Dr. Niobe Way 

[15:05] Issues in the culture that de-humanize us 

[21:13] Niobe’s story on friendships between boys in the classroom  

[28:45] The Listening Project and transformative interviewing 

[45:37] Traci and Niobe’s dreams for disrupting the culture and addressing the crisis of connection 

[48:32] The scientific evidence behind the crisis of connection  

[54:59] Niobe’s word for you 

[1:01] Outro 


Resources Mentioned

PACH – The Project for the Advancement of our Common Humanity 

The Science of Human Connection

Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection 

The Crisis of Connection: Roots, Consequences, and Solutions 


Standout Quotes from the Episode

“We born wanting, starving, for connection to each other. And that’s basically all we want in our lives: to be deeply connected to one another and to connect to ourselves as well.”
—Dr. Niobe Way 

“We’ve created a culture that clashes with our nature.”
—Dr. Niobe Way 

“We say, ‘the problem is you, not the culture in which you live.’”
—Dr. Niobe Way 

“The problem is that we have created this culture that’s based on this hierarchy of humanness. It’s very critical that we stop taking the symptom and treating it as if it’s the problem, because it’s a symptom of a problem.”
—Dr. Niobe Way 

“If it’s just about holding hands and being nice to each other, it’s not going to get far because we’re not disrupting the fundamental structure that creates the problem.”
—Dr. Niobe Way 

“At the root of all good connection is interpersonal curiosity.”
—Dr. Niobe Way 

“The question is not, ‘how do we punish that person? But, ‘how do we understand what happened so that it doesn’t happen again?’”
—Dr. Niobe Way 

“Listening is not just simply about shutting up. It’s about engaging with people around their questions. Learning from someone else about the answers to your own questions. Valuing interpersonal curiosity. Seeing connection not just as connecting on social media, but actually allowing someone to be seen, and heard, and listened to.”
—Dr. Niobe Way 

“We need to start from a place of humanity and who we are as humans, in order for us to get to a more just and humane place. And until we start from that place, we’re never going to get there.”
—Dr. Niobe Way 



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