We often seek belonging by matching like with like.
In a new group setting, our adaptive instincts seek “likes” (Is she like me? Do I have something in common with him?) instead of differences.
Older boys used to heckle me when I was 6, 9, even 12 because I had long blond hair. I fought for my hair. Small-framed me, beat up boys bigger than me. Yep, my little fist on a bigger boy’s face. I was a peaceful kid until I wasn’t.
I kept my hair long even if it meant I didn’t instantly belong. The funny thing is it turns out other boys wanted their hair long, too, but their mothers and fathers wouldn’t let them.
Sometimes we heckle what we want. Sometimes we push away what we want to be. Sometimes we push away what seems different.
But what if you desire to belong among people who take you as you are, in your complexities and imperfections? If so, maybe you’d be well served to experiment with seeking out someone seemingly different from you.
Maybe your business, brand, or creative endeavor would do well to consider how you facilitate this core hunger to belong.
Consider the Danish TV 2 station’s All That We Share promotion in January 2017 as attitudes of divisiveness spread around the globe. The voiceover begins,
“It’s easy to put people in boxes. There’s us and there’s them, the high earners and those just getting by. Those we trust and those we try to avoid. There are those we share something with and those we don’t share anything with.”
Why does this ad make my eyes sweat (as my mother would say) every time I watch it? Three reasons I can articulate:
- It gives me hope when a brand takes a thoughtful non-divisive stance – and when it’s delivered in a thoughtful, surprising way.
- It taps into my core yearning to connect with people on a real level who might not appear like me and who might have different beliefs, realities, and world views than me.
- I always cry when I see two divisive human beings reconcile or when the bad guy appears good. (You know, that Darth Vader moment when he finally connects to his son, Luke? Yeah, these are fundamental things stellar story makers know.)
Is it just me? I don’t think so. As mammals, we need to belong. We need touch.
A lawyer, an alpaca farmer & storyteller, a psychotherapist & yoga teacher, a Reiki trainer & women’s circle leader, an author on body image, a musician & sound healer enter a room.
And they find their commonalities. The lawyer also owns a farm. Someone notes that all six of their brands are in the business of transformation, of eliciting and facilitating fundamental change in human beings. For several days in a Mastermind Immersion, they get glimpses of each other’s endeavors, and they collaborate through design thinking and creative problem-solving in order to advance their brand’s vision and goals.
The fact that they were face-to-face for several days, too, bonded them even more. Developmental psychologist and columnist Susan Pinker lays out a lot of research on the benefits of face in her book The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter.
What if we had the right to belong?
How would things change if your community made #RightToBelong official policy? That’s the provocative premise of the new US Department of Arts and Culture. It’s actually not part of the US government. But it’s pretty smart stuff, and they provide a free tool kit to get things going.
What about your brand or business? What about your creative endeavors?
How could your brand or endeavor facilitate belonging among differences?
That’s a worthy question for some of us to live in.
I’m watching numerous brands operate with integrity to bring different people together. Airbnb has been on my radar since 2014 when they rebranded from their founders’ core values and launched the new tagline, “Belong Anywhere” along with their new logo, Belo. They’ve since ramped up that message in action in a variety of ways. They’re living that Story. At 99u Conference in the city last month, I heard Airbnb’s Steve Selzer raised his provocative premise:
What if what we design perpetuates a kind of culture? What if we designed less for ease and convenience and designed more for friction?
Design for friction. His point rang true to my heart: If you design services and products only for ease and convenience, then you perpetuate a culture of no friction. Of all ease. No challenge. No growth. No quest.
Think of this image from the film Wall-e:
When you design for friction, you design to bring people with different points of view together and to help them work through those differences.
And when you design for friction and when you or your brand take bold stances that contribute meaning to our culture, it’s vital you not go it alone. It’s vital you find peers doing likewise who can support you, question you for the better, and give you perspective.
So, the ultimate question: How do you find belonging?
Workplace: Could you seek out someone who is not an obvious “like” and have a face-to-face lunch break conversation?
Collaborate: If you have friction at times with someone on your team, how can you regard those differences as valuable and complementary and work through them genuinely?
Creative Packs: How can you gather a few people who are on a similar mission or working on their own big ideas and projects? How could you form your own Creative Pack to run together, bounce off ideas, and keep howling for one another? Best to find people who don’t think exactly like you.
If you’re looking for a creative pack to share ideas with, a community to lift you up, offer feedback and help you step into doing your best work, I invite you to join our Tracking Wonder Quest Community.
In our community, you’ll gain weekly inspiration, access to special meetups, and opportunities to find allies online and in your region of the planet. Our free community is comprised of professionals, entrepreneurs, creatives, teachers, coaches, and consultants (many of whom align with being introverted) from 15 countries, dedicated to doing business from a place of authenticity and wonder. Join us.