By: Marita Fridjhon
Part 3 of the Cultivating Belonging Series • Meet, Reveal, Align & Act
“You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” • Grace Lee Boggs
According to Webster, "belonging" means to feel a sense of connection - to a place, a group, a country. At this moment in the United States, it may seem that more divides than unites us.
In 1858, speaking of the growing disconnect which would eventually lead to the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln warned "a house divided cannot stand." Can we, trained in Relationship Systems Intelligence (RSI™), use these principles, tools and skills to find alignment in our country’s culture?
We all have a vested interest in creating belonging, and moving forward involves cultivating connection in contexts great and small. According to the needs outlined in Maslow’s Hierarchy, belonging is a more basic requirement than prestige or feelings of accomplishment.
Currently, it does feel as if prestige and accomplishment, social status and systemic racism is seriously hampering the sense of belonging that can come with valuing diversity.
Whether your goal is to encourage belonging within a community, to navigate discord in a business environment, or to find points of alignment between differing ideologies, connection begins with a conversation.
Consider these two of the Five Principles of RSI.
As relationship systems workers and change makers, we are called to use the privilege of having skills and tools to navigate the polarities around us, and to find unity in the midst of division. We can use RSI tools to support systemic change, to leverage diversity, and incorporate deep democracy to resolve conflict.
What then is the art of designing our interactions consciously, knowing who we have in front of us and where we are in the flow of our interactions with others? Whether we are engaging in a one-on-one conversation with a neighbor or working with a large group, it is critical to be aware and heed the three iterative phases of all relationship systems:
Video | Phase 1 of the Meet, Reveal, Align and Act process
PHASE 1 | Meet
Meeting is one of the most important and often neglected relationship skills for all of us! Think of a group of guests sitting down in a favorite restaurant. (Many of us can still remember that, yes?) You are met and seated by your very attentive waiter, who welcomes you as guests and pours you water while inquiring what you might like to drink.
This is a simple but valuable example of the Meeting phase, which creates a sense of home and belonging. If you feel into the role of waiter, you are becoming consciously aware, and really curious about who is in front of you and what is happening to them in this moment. You might remember their favorite drink, but you are not assuming that this is what they want to enjoy at this time!
Without conscious awareness, we can become caught up in our own bias about where we think the others might be in this moment. We must slow down, take time to process and engage, and connect on a personal level with who is here now before us. This helps us to discover where people actually are in the moment, and what has brought them here.
In working with teams and organizations, it is critically important to create a dialogue which invites everyone to co-create the social contract of the culture they desire before they tackle the strategic. We refer to this as a Designed Team Alliance (DTA).
Questions to ask in creating a Designed Team Alliance (Social Contract)
Before even starting the Designed Team Alliance (DTA), “park” the task or project. The agreement being outlined is about how team members will be working together most effectively during this task. It is not about agreeing who will do what by when! Creating a culture of belonging and collaboration is critical to successful outcomes, as is rehearsing both the positive and challenges of being in relationship as they do the work. This social contract is theirs to author.
Three important questions drive this collective dialogue.
A DTA is a process, not a one-time event. Visit this agreement regularly to renew it or add new pieces. Make it a living working document.
During this Meeting phase of the process, expect the following opportunities and challenges.
PHASE 2 | Reveal
Think back to our restaurant scenario. During the Reveal phase, the group is considering what they'd like to order. The waiter is curious about their choices and offers a menu while inquiring about guest preferences and allergies.
PHASE 3 | Align & Act
In the Align and Act phase, the guests in the restaurant are clear about the choices and ready to move ahead with placing an order. Some of the dishes will be unique to each guest, while others they may choose to share.
Once all of the phases have been completed, it is a very good practice to revisit the Designed Team Alliance. Check in with the group to review what worked. What might they want to add that will make their efforts even more effective?
In all of this, practice the art of knowing where you are in this process. Are you lingering in the Meet phase at the point at which you should be encouraging the group toward Reveal? Consider the time available, and map out the points at which you should move forward and begin to craft actions.
Ending a session while stuck in either the Meet or Reveal phase will have detrimental effects. If you close having spent most of your time in Meeting, members leave frustrated and feeling that nothing has changed. The Revealing phase is often the most challenging and stressful part of the process for everyone involved. It is critical to close with possible solutions that share the most alignment, while being very clear that what remains unsolved will be revisited during the next conversation.
“If you want to go fast, go alone."
"If you want to go far, go together.”
In the wake of a shattering pandemic, social unrest and uncertainty, fostering a sense of belonging is key to creating sustainable points of alignment within our nation's culture. It is one of the biggest residual demands as we move out of an old way of being into the future we hope to create.
By taking the time to engage others in creating a culture where everyone retains a sense of belonging while remaining different and diverse, we can emerge through chaos into transformative, positive change. Given that sustainability is another one of our biggest current challenges globally, fostering belonging is a foundational step in creating the future we envision now.
WRITTEN BY: Marita Fridjhon, CEO and co-founder of CRR Global, who lives and works in the United States. Learn more about Relationship Systems Intelligence in the book Creating Intelligent Teams.