What is belonging?
Belonging for us is not a model, a segment of a triangle or a textbook definition.
That feeling comes from the people and the environment created around you. Belonging is the space where you can be yourself, thrive, feel good. And with or without triangles, we need it.
Why does Belonging Matter?
It’s deep in our design as humans
We have interacted, co-inhabited and worked in couples, pairs, groups, teams or with friends pretty much as far as the records go back. We like to belong, to exist together, we are inherently social creatures. It’s somewhere deep in our make up as humans.
It allows us to become our best selves
When we belong, we are simply the best version of ourselves. We achieve. More than we knew we could. We create things we didn’t think we were capable of. We are supportive, are supported, get it done. Who doesn’t want that?
It protects our wellbeing
This sense of belonging protects our wellbeing. We are connected, if we belong, we have good relationships, a support network, a safety to share how we are really going. And that matters.
Belonging and ‘People Like Us – PLU’
So, if we need to belong, what role is played by ‘people like us’?
There’s a story to this one – and it comes from Virginia Holloway (“V”) an amazing OzHarvest Chef from Melbourne, who we met at the OzHarvest CEO Cook-Off this week. There were 250 CEOs, 50 top Chefs, countless staff and volunteers and 1400 amazing guests for the evening.
V was making it happen. She was supporting the group, troubleshooting issues and in a normal conversation about the food, about the event, V threw out something that made us immediately belong, she said ‘people like us’ (PLU). It was warm, like a hug, and it showed a connectivity, a commonality.
Yes, commonality helps us belong, but if we are the same in every way, gosh humanity gets a bit boring. The more we pondered these 3 words, the more we understood that ‘people like us’ was inherently positive, optimistic, and inclusive. People like us captures the essence of inclusion beautifully, not a phrase dictating ‘to the mould’ similarity.
And yes, there was commonality at the Cook-Off. People were by no means the same – and thank goodness for that. The big commonality, and the point of people like us, is all about the inflection.
The CEOs, the Chefs, the Volunteers, the Staff and the Guests were all people, like us. And these people shared the same goal – they were all in the Royal Hall of Industries, they care about OzHarvest, they want it to keep doing its amazing work and they wanted every other person there to have an enjoyable time.
That forged a sense of belonging. And reassuringly, that didn’t mean they were all the same background, race, gender, height, weight etc. Phew!
The sense of belonging came from the situation bringing them together.
They knew it when hearing a story where this night represented a couple’s first date away from 7 children in 14 years. And they felt good.
Knew it when seeing someone under the pump to finish a meal, and they jumped in to help. And they got it to their guest.
Understood it when having a chat with someone in the coffee line, that wasn’t in their ‘assigned group’. We don’t mentally complete some weird jigsaw of ‘I’m a CEO, you’re a guest’. We have a chat, we listen, we find common ground, we laugh.
Ultimately, as humans, we get what we need from belonging simply when someone else listens, when they hear and when they demonstrate that they care.
And if we help others belong, we are actually creating belonging for ourselves. And this goes even when not bonded by purpose or situation.
What can you do to support Belonging?
Mindset – people, like us.
This should not require explanation, but as humans, we can forget, so it does require a constant reminder. Whatever the labels we receive, the groups we fall in, whatever side of the kitchen we are on – we must constantly think, the people we interact with, are people, like us.
Generosity and Respect
Supporting the right mindset, comes the need for generosity and respect. We are both people, we just met, set the default position on ‘how can we help each other’ and ‘we respect each other, without judgement’ – and watch the belonging grow.
Include ‘to breed’ Belonging.
If we can get the right mindset, apply generosity and respect, we will come pretty close to including, irrespective of difference. Then more of us will belong, more needs will be met and more of us will be able to be our best selves, contribute fully, openly. And if we create the space for others to belong, we belong too.
Where is mwah. up to on Belonging?
mwah. has been developing a way of tapping into the Belonging of individuals, of teams and of organisations. And we are almost ready to move from the pilot to production.
If you’d like to learn more, please get in touch with us here.