Community Development

Do you illuminate or diminish people?

October 27, 2023  • Weave: The Social Fabric Project

In the first year of Weave: The Social Fabric Project, New York Times columnist and author David Brooks and his team embarked on a listening tour, talking to hundreds of community weavers all over the country. Weavers are people who create broad and deep relationships with others where they live or work while addressing shared needs and building social trust. In his new book, Brooks writes that many of the weavers he met were lonely, in spite of being very involved in their communities.

“They were deeply satisfied by having the chance to help others, but they often noted that no one was actually there to serve them, to minister to them in their weak and exhausted moments. The person who seems strongest in any family or organization can also feel alone,” he explains.

What those weavers needed was to meet other weavers. That is because weavers have a skill that is rare in today’s society, Brooks says. They search for the gifts in others and make people feel valued. His new book aims to pass this quality on to everyone, to “help us become more skilled at the art of seeing others and making them feel seen, known, and understood.”  The book is called How to Know a Person.

Weavers tend to be “illuminators” of people. They are curious and want to know others. “They shine the brightness of their care on people and make them feel bigger, deeper, respected, and lit up,” says Brooks. They meet us more than half way and fill a deep need we all have to be seen.

They are the opposite of “diminishers.” Diminishers see people as objects to be used, not as persons to know and care for. “Diminishers are so into themselves, they make others feel insignificant… If they learn one thing about you, they proceed to make a series of assumptions about who you must be.” Diminishers fit well into today’s mainstream culture, which elevates striving for ourselves.

“Above almost any other need,” writes Brooks, “human beings long to have another person look into their faces with love and acceptance. The issue is that we lack practical knowledge about how to give one another the attention we crave.” He wrote How to Know a Person as a practical guide to becoming an illuminator of others, a weaver. His recent New York Times essay shares some of the book’s main points.

In 2019, Weave brought 300 weavers to Washington, DC to meet each other. The energy was electric, as people illuminated each other and no longer felt alone in their work of healing and supporting their communities. (Here is a six-minute video about the gathering.) Now, weavers join the online Weave Community to feel seen and supported by other weavers. The 1200 members come from every state and diverse backgrounds.

If you weave or want to weave, consider joining this community – there’s no cost, though we’ll ask you to write something about your community and what weaving means to you.

Weave: The Social Fabric Project tackles the problem of broken social trust that has left Americans divided, lonely, and in social gridlock. Weave connects, supports, and invests in local leaders stepping up to weave a new, inclusive social fabric where they live. The project was founded by New York Times columnist and author David Brooks at The Aspen Institute. Learn more at