Meaningful Social Connections and Building a Community
By Karen Neri
If there are aspects of our human experience that many of us yearn for and thrive in the most, it would be meaningful connections and community. Recently, I came across this article. It was written about a year ago, but the message resonated with me and still rings true today more than ever. The author shared a metric of success that often goes unnoticed − that is, the existence of a deeply shared connection. Simply put, whether the people we care about love us back. Although we recognize that our social relationships are important, they can also be the first to fall by the wayside as the demands of our work and home life take center stage.
I appreciate the author reminding us that we need community and connection. We have always needed each other before this period of uncertainty, and we definitely need each other now. Continuing to exercise those muscles that allow us to connect (e.g., eye contact, tone of voice, and re-learning social cues) and to remain vulnerable are all-important to forming meaningful connections. It is these connections that build the communities where we feel most ourselves, and in which we belong. It is where we find comfort, security, and happiness.
Despite technology making it easier to connect, it can still be challenging to find our own community of people. Sometimes, it can become necessary to build our own. If you have been thinking about building your own tribe and are unsure of where to start, I share with you three commonalities that seems to exist in communities beloved by others: 1) a shared idea, experience, or identity; 2) trust; and 3) engagement.
Having people come together on a similar idea, experience, or identity allows for a shared connection. To help jumpstart ideas how you might rally others, here is a link to an article on community building.
Trust and emotional safety go hand in hand. Community members will need to feel validated, that they can share openly, that they can rely on each other, and experience accountability from one another. If people feel seen, heard, and understood, it creates safety and trust. CMX, an organization that helps professional community builders thrive, has its own model for community engagement cycle. One of the steps is trust − first in the organizer, then in the ideas presented, and eventually between the group members themselves.
Engagement is also a key component. It is what the group members do together and what drives them to continue. This might be where purpose and value come in for the members that have them returning and inviting others. When shared interest or identity and trust exist, it is easier for people to start engaging with one another as well as their environment. They start to do it on their own, and it begins to feel organic.
There are many ways to start meaningful connections and communities online and offline. Some of the available platforms these days that you could use to find or start your own community are Facebook groups, Buddypress, Slack, or Meetup.