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Opinion / Partnerships and Building Relationships

Seeing Clearly in the Fog: Reflections on the Core Value of Connection

silhouettes of a group gathered on the beach

The other morning I went to the beach and was startled by the fog. From the boardwalk where I jogged, I could barely see the waves surface upon the sand. People emerged before me from the damp greyness only as I got close, and even the high-rise buildings off to the side disappeared as I gazed up. There was mystery in the distance, and what laid ahead remained hidden. And so, I focused on my breath, my pace, my thoughts, the people before me, and the here and now feeling of it all.

While our world at large remains clouded in uncertainty about what is to come, the opportunities to focus on what’s here and now are clear. Our mindful awareness of the present does not cut us off from the future, rather, it allows us to prepare for it more effectively. We can take these moments of limited outside activity, due to the pandemic, as a chance to refocus internally on what matters to us most. And we can treat this stage as a call to revisit our core values.

pier stretching out into the oceanCuriosity is a top core value of mine and offers the power to proceed joyfully into the unknown. It is a gateway to another one of my top values – Connection. Just as curiosity drives me forward into learning, connection paves the way for the feeling of belonging. Much has been written about our human need for social connection and the positive life outcomes that social connectedness provides us.

Since we’re nearly nine months into a hunkered down existence of more time in our households, the way we prioritize connecting can directly affect our availability for deep listening and responding, beginning with those closest to us. Michelle Obama introduced her podcast this summer by discussing the relationships that make us who we are, including our relationships with ourselves. The conversations she role models pertain to topics we’re all facing, and listening to her dialogue with loved ones about things that matter makes sparking conversation sound deeply appealing, whether or not we find it easy. By turning our attention more inward, and more intently with those near to us, we can witness and validate our experiences, allowing essential feelings of nurturance and wellness to occur.

This value for building connection is a motivational drive to form positive relationships that applies as equally to personal life as it does to professional life. Esther Perel, a best-selling author and renowned couples therapist, underscores the principle that the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.

If you’re looking for techniques or prompts to get you going, check out Fetzer Institute’s Conversation Cards (Tarjetas de Conversación) or these Creative Ideas for Building Staff Relationships from Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Try opening your next meeting or work session with a pause to ask colleagues – even those you see daily – a simple question or two to build mutual connection:

  • What’s one thing you request from this group (or team) in order to do our best work, and one thing that will get in the way?
  • What are you most eager to bring to fruition together?
  • Which of your skills or talents are not yet fully harnessed to meet our goals?
  • What kind of support would you like to receive from me?
  • What’s a practice you rely on for coping with challenging times?

Ask, then listen. Respond in a way to clearly demonstrate that you’ve taken in what they’ve shared.

In a society that idealizes self-sufficiency, it can be difficult to admit that we need each other in order to feel successful, well, and whole. After this long period of being physically cut off from each other, when our fog eventually clears and we can re-emerge to physically embrace one another, I hope we’ll see clearly and take less for granted that we must cherish each other in big and small ways. As we heal and transform through our relationships with others, so too can we heal and transform our aching world in a simultaneous process of building connections and generating repair.

For breakfast, I had oatmeal with raisins.

Author: @aresnick

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