What a delight it was this week to facilitate a retreat for a group of 15 co-workers who were trying to find their footing again after a series of challenging events. The planning for this gathering seemed unusually easy for me and I didn’t experience the typical anxiety associated with guiding a group of people that I didn’t know through several hours of reflection and genuine vulnerability. Since there was an uneven number of participants, I had the good fortune of being able to pair up with one of them during an activity designed to get to know each another a bit better. When I can become part of the tribe early on, I am at my most comfortable, even if technically I am supposed to be leading the way. I was able to use the word ‘we’ from the start and that helped immensely when we got to the place where the tough stuff was being shared. Oh to have learned this years before a disastrously embarrassing attempt to talk about ‘overwhelm’ at a local leadership conference! If only I could have placed myself in the middle and just had a conversation instead of behaving as if I was some kind of expert! The acknowledgement that we are in this together would have really helped.
Where is your we? When examined closely, I believe this becomes an ever shifting, nuanced assessment. For instance, I have several groups of girlfriends with whom I feel a ‘we-ship’. We live in the same neighborhood or we went to high school together or we were co-workers in the past. And, when we get into the nitty gritty of who we voted for, our religious beliefs, or a myriad of other topics, we realize that we don’t belong to the same tribe on everything. But we don’t become an us and them. Why is that?
I think because we know each other as humans and have established deep enough connections to allow us to put these differences in context of the broader relationship.
The challenge today seems to be that it is easy to find a tribe that is filled with people you likely do not know well, but with whom you share an opinion, belief or fear. Just visit Facebook or Twitter. Brene Brown talks about this as “just an intimacy created by hating the same people”. She also believes that it is absolutely not sustainable, because that sort of connection is not what humans ultimately yearn for.
I want to get to ‘we’ with people who do not share my view of things. But it is so much easier to dismiss these folks as ignorant or uncaring. My internal self righteousness feels great when I can sit in my own certainty. But the pain of being separated from my fellow citizens is worse. All I can do is keep trying-and ask for your help along the way.