Recently, I was talking to my one of my friends (we'll call her Susie) after she had relocated for work. She was catching me up on all the drama at her new job in a new city she just moved to. It's been a bumpy transition for her to say the least, as her new team is very tight-knit, and she feels very much like an outsider. She definitely misses "home" and all the comforts and routines she had previously taken for granted.
While we talked, we shared stories about the people in our lives - some with whom we get get along and some with whom we don't. We talked about relationships. And about groups and about fitting in. Or fitting out. We talked about finding yourself alone even when you're in a crowd.
Susie and I also talked about finding your voice and your strength when you finally find your tribe.
Or when you're finally okay with just standing alone.
At some point, we floated the word "belonging". We talked about how it feels to be on the inside of belonging versus how it feels to be on the outside of belonging. What does it even mean to belong?
Then she told me a story about a colleague's party she went to where many of the other guests were strangers, and though she was nervous about going solo, she was eager to meet some new people to befriend: her new tribe.
As Susie mixed and mingled at the party, she overheard another guest (we'll call him Ron) lament that his dearly beloved and recently departed grandmother had left him without her "Perfection Salad", an obscure, Southern, 1900s era molded jello side dish that died out (thankfully) in the 1980s. Then he added that, not only was he losing Grams' tasty Perfection Salad, he was dismayed that so few people knew of the delicacy and thus they didn't give him the empathy he felt he deserved. They had never heard of it, had never tasted it, and therefore, they didn't share his feelings of loss (except for the loss of poor Grams).
Raised in Ohio, but with extensive Southern roots, Susie's very own grandmother also had a recipe for Perfection Salad, which was a much requested side dish at family holidays, birthdays, and funerals. It was a recipe passed down dutifully from grandmother to granddaughter, surviving time and marking the passing of it.
When Susie heard Ron's story, she knew it was her chance to make a connection with him. She, too, shared his sentimental love for Perfection Salad. She could relate! When she told him she knew how to make it, his response was an excited:
"What do you know about Perfection Salad?"
For awhile after that, Susie and Ron spent time sharing stories about their grandmothers and other favorite family recipes and memories. Throughout the night, Ron introduced her to his friends and more connections were made.
Suddenly, Susie belonged.
And Ron benefited too, because both his losses were finally validated by someone who understood and empathized with him.
After listening to Susie's story of bonding over Perfection Salad, I started wondering how those same scenarios play out in other ways and in other places in our lives.
How does 'belonging' affect the way we see ourselves? How do our feelings about ourselves affect the way we reach out to others to find common ground?
How does it feel when something just clicks in a relationship, and it becomes comfortable?
How does finding that common ground shape the vision of tomorrow's innovative organizations and thoughtful leaders? Do we all have a little Perfection Salad to share?
Every day, I'm exploring answers to these questions and to many more, and I'm sharing them with you. If you'd like to share yours, please be sure to comment!
Cory Frederick - subject matter expert, speaker, consultant, educator, advocate