The desire to belong is common to us all.
We are born wired for relationship, arms outstretched, clamouring for attention and a significant other to meet our needs.
Even though our ‘sense of agency‘ or control grows as we develop as people – to the point where we’re no longer exclusively dependent on our mother, father, and immediate family – we still desire to be loved, and feel part of something bigger.
We all crave a caring group that knows us well and is looking out for us, whether it’s our family, or another supportive network.
We want to be connected to a body of people who tell us, in no uncertain terms, that we matter, and that we are welcome.
The desire to belong is innate and important. It reminds us that it’s not good to be alone, and propels us to find our place in the world.
We crave unity with other people, but so often the groups in our lives feel like they’re missing something.
To me, the best ‘groups’ – whether families, or churches, or organisations – value the unique offerings of each individual.
They champion each other’s gifts and cherish what every member has to offer.
While each is part of a collective whole, members of a healthy group will have the freedom to ask questions, express themselves in a way that is respectful of others, and grow at their own pace.
Rather than victims of ‘groupthink‘, members feel loved for who they are and championed to be the best people they can be.
Sound a bit idealistic? It probably is.
But wouldn’t it be great if more groups were like this?
Don’t forget that if you’re in a group, you can impact a group. You don’t have to stay a victim of a poorly designed structure. Here are a few ideas I’ve had for building healthier groups:
- To have a friend you must be a friend, as the old saying goes. What can you do to reach out to others in your group and make them feel more a part of the ‘family’? Organise some one-on-one time with them. If a group member feels connected to at least one other person within the group, they are much more likely to stay connected and committed to it.
- Take time to affirm and champion each member of your group. Cheer them on and tell them what you value about them.
- Don’t dismiss each other’s ideas – but explore them through active listening and drawing out the ‘idea behind the idea’.
- Make sure each person gets equal ‘talking time’. It can be very frustrating for introverts when the loudest group member wins all the time. Be fair.
- Think about people who may not know about your group, and invite them in. Remember that the desire to belong is strong, and the risks of social isolation great. Stay connected with other families and members of your community so that loneliness is averted.
The desire to belong is common to us all, but some need extra help in connecting with others.
What can you do this week to connect, bond, and build a sense of belonging in the networks you find yourself in?