Cultivating meaningful connection and a sense of belonging is important to our health and well-being.
Now we find ourselves feeling increasingly disconnected at home and work.
How can we cultivate connection and belonging in our technology-centric world?
What do we need to do to revitalize our sense of interconnectedness?
In this episode I’m in conversation with Marita Fridjhon, creator of Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching. We chat about the consequences of the pandemic on our relationships at home and work. Marita shares some ideas about how to deepen our connections and sense of belonging.
Tune in to find out why connection and belonging are the biggest challenge we face today and what you can do to cultivate them.
A full transcript is posted at the bottom of this page if you prefer to read.
[Bio] Marita Fridjhon
Marita Fridjhon is CEO and Co-Founder of CRR Global, Inc. and the Creator of the Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) Program. This groundbreaking approach builds stronger relationships by focusing on the relationship itself and not just the people in it. Marita is the co-author of Creating Intelligent Teams: Leading with Relationship Systems Intelligence. Her primary focus in coaching is on systemic change, leveraging diversity, creative communication, deep democracy in conflict management and the development of learning organizations.
[Website] CRR Global, Inc
Check out Marita’s website to see how ORSC can help deepen any relationship.
[Blog] Creating a Sense of Belonging
Marita has written a blog series on creating a sense of connection and belonging:
[Video] Giant Jigsaw Puzzle
Watch this Savour Saturday video in which I explain my world view. It’s all about connection.
[Book] Atomic Habits
The book Marita mentioned was Atomic Habits by James Clear.
[Newsletter] Savouring the Day
If you liked this podcast be sure to get my weekly newsletter – a dose of positivity, tips and inspiration delivered to your inbox.
Scroll on down to the comments section and share your thoughts….
What challenges do you see in trying to cultivate connection and belonging at home or work?
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CREDITS: The Being & The Doing podcast is produced by Neela Bell. Voiceovers by Jason Harris. Music is GoodMorning Sunshine by Yoav Alyagon and Firefly by Scott Buckley.
Full Show Transcript
Announcer: Welcome to The Being and The Doing. A podcast about wellbeing and the practices that help us have calmer, more focus, purpose, and presence in our busy lives. Here’s your host, author, and life coach, Laurel Vespi.
Laurel: Hello lovely ones welcome to Episode 38 of The Being and The Doing. So, this season, we’re diving into the principles that have to do with savoring the day, and how it is that we can more gracefully, and with perhaps greater ease and attention, navigate the ups and downs of life. And one of those principles is about building meaningful connections. And I have to tell you, I’m just tickled today with my guest. Because… and maybe she doesn’t even realize this, but I attribute my success as a coach to her. When I started coach training 20 years ago… Yikes, When I say that! Twenty years ago, when I started my coach training, she was one of the people there at the very beginning who was teaching me and leading me through coursework. And I was just so inspired by her. And then, as she went on and began to develop other even more meaningful work around systems, I always looked to her as a leader and a teacher, and a mentor. And so, to have her here, to be part of this conversation is just a real treat for me.
So, I’m happy to share her with you for the next little while as we talk about this idea of building connections and belonging – I’m speaking about Marita Fridjhon. She is the CEO and co-founder of CRR Global Inc. and the creator of a very powerful coaching program called Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching. In the coaching biz, we refer to that as ORSC. Her work is about systematic change and diversity, and powerful work around deep democracy, or creating a culture and a space for all voices to be heard when managing conflict, or working with teams or in families. It is just such powerful work, and I continue to find that this work, whether I’m working with an individual, or if I’m working with a couple or with a team, is just really powerful. And so, I’m thrilled Marita to welcome you to The Being and The Doing.
Marita: Thank you, Laurel. I noticed that as you and I chatted before we started the conversation I was so delighted to see our faces again. And in my mind, I was going back to how long and how far back does it go? So, thank you for creating the connection in this moment and dating us for everybody that’s listening, but also valuing the connection that spans time. And we can start as if we just met the last time yesterday.
Laurel: Yes. I remember wonderful conversations, and being challenged to step out of the box in beautiful Vancouver where we first met.
Marita: That’s where it was.
Laurel: Yeah. So, Marita, this Savor the Day Principle around building meaningful connections… I just read an article that you wrote as a part of a series of articles on belonging. And in that article, you said that our greatest challenge is to actively cultivate connection and belonging right now. Why do you feel that is our greatest challenge right now?
Marita: Well, there’s a number of reasons, but one of them is that the research points us there as well. And again, so much of the work that we do, that’s around connecting and relationship has not always been that welcomed in the corporate world, because there was such a separation between the personal and the professional. That changed over the last decades or so. But still… So, I think that one of the things that was stunning for me was when I was looking at the latest research of Deloitte and Touche at the end of last year, that came from four corporations globally. The single biggest challenge that they faced for 2021, was the challenge about how to, given the uproar and all that happened last year, working from home, and everything that went with the pandemic, the single biggest challenge that corporations are facing is how to create a sense of belonging.
And the thing that you are talking about: connection in relationship and mainly making meaningful relationships, lives in that place – where it is what gives us a sense of belonging. It is just in the moment of making eye contact with you again on this call. There was the sense of an opening of the heart because there was something that was familiar. So, for me, the question remains, what is it that helps us find that kind of connection? And how is it that we’ve gotten lost and challenged so much in the year that we just completed? So, I was fascinated when I got your invitation to talk about this, because I think it’s the big question that all of us walk with this year.
Laurel: Yeah. It seemed to me it is the blessing and the curse, that is the pandemic. That it not only created that disconnect for people, that separation for people but in some sense, I think it also shines a light on ways in which we weren’t connected before or ways where we didn’t perhaps feel that we belonged before. It wasn’t like everything was great up until March 2020, and then the pandemic hit and, Oh, now we have this problem. It seems to me that that existed before, and this just put the big, giant light on it.
Marita: I think you’re right. And I think that there’s a lot of this that existed and that we were unconscious about how we create meaningful connections. Because a lot of it got assumed in the habits that we have. And one of the things that was so significant about last year as well is that, in research, there’s a conversation about what is it that created the fatigue that everybody experienced last year. In the middle of a time when everybody’s working from home and supposedly working less, there was this fatigue. And one of the things that shows up in research and that they are talking about is that fatigue is about the phenomenon where we were forced to make decisions all the time. Whereas prior to the pandemic and when we know that we got up, we commute, we go to the office or go to the coffee station or whatever those habits were, we didn’t have to decide about it.
It was institutionalized, all of that got lost. And in that process, we also lost some of the connections and relationships that we didn’t even think were important. That’s one of the pieces that really has my attention. That, on one hand, we had to amplify the relationship with family and people that we now all occupied the house together, seven days a week. Well, that put a strain and stress on that relationship system, because it changed everything there. And one of the things that we know about is, how often our best friends are also known as a friend-enemies. And the kids could escape to school, and be gone from the parents. And the parents could separate out and go to work.
So, all of those things expose some of the challenges in the relationships that we are constantly surrounded by, but it also lifted out something that I don’t think we had a lot of conscious awareness of. That thing that there’s a fleeting connection with somebody – the person that walked their dog down the street and I wave at them. I checked it at the grocery store, and I had a conversation with the person that is packing the bag.
Those fleeting connections, show up in the research around longevity studies, as the single most important reason that people who are living beyond a hundred years are doing that because they are a part of a very strong social construct that has some of that. But fleeting connection… that person is not going to hold me responsible for anything. Not going to see him or her again, but I make a connection. A lot of that got banished.
Laurel: Yeah. And I think that fleeting connection as you’re referring to it, is that the thing that reminds us that we’re a part of a bigger web that…
Marita: A bigger piece.
Laurel: A bigger piece, that all of those little connections that remind us…. or the way in which we can be sometimes moved by people that we don’t know. It just taps us back into that whole human…I’m connected to humanity. And when I think pre-pandemic, we missed that part because we were so busy. We’re so busy and we’re distracted…
Marita: And we were just so used to it. It’s a part of what happened and we didn’t value it. So, that’s why that research is important. And that’s why if we look at how we create deeper connections, I think there’s something about paying attention to how I now create that fleeting connection. Because that fleeting connection brings us satisfaction. That then reduces the strain I put on the people that I have a deeper connection. Because at the same time that we lost that, we were looking for some of that soothing. Some of that, I see you now, I’m gone. I don’t demand anything from you.
All of that got more burdensome because we demand it and expect more of that from the people that we were now 24/7 with. So, we lost some of that fleeting touch back into humanity. There are other people. It’s a bigger place. I’m not alone. I see people and I don’t have to fix them or do anything. It’s just, HI! That connection now all got pooled into what needs to happen in the household. Which is one of the reasons why it’s fascinating, that one of the outcomes of the pandemic, was the animal shelters were empty. Why? Because it provides that kind of connection. And I look at my dog and it doesn’t matter what happened before, she loves me, and wags her tail.
Laurel: Well, and what interesting about that when you’re talking about how the fleeting connections got poured back into those more intimate connections that we have. And now, we also channeled that into our animals, or went and got animals and started channeling them. One of my daughters is a veterinarian and one of the things that she began to see happening during the pandemic was animals’ stress levels going up, because it was all too much.
Marita: Interesting, yes. That makes sense.
Laurel: We can’t quite handle all of this that you’re needing from us. If you think about what animals are used to – that you’re not there 24/7. And now you’re there 24/7 and they feel the emotional field of all of the stress.
Marita: Yes. That’s the first time I’ve heard that and it makes total sense for me. It makes total sense.
Laurel: It’s also interesting when we think about raising the expectation about what it is that within the household is going to happen. Do you think there is a part of it too, where out of habit or convenience or whatever that was, that we underestimated the connection in the family before the pandemic? I know I’d had some people saying, I don’t know how to be with my kids. Because before, they were at school and they had activities, and we had work, and we were together, but we weren’t together for great chunks of time. And we don’t really know how to be with each other or with a partner. I don’t know how to be with this person all of the time. And now, the time has expanded where it is a 24/7 thing.
Marita: I’ve not said this before, but I think there’s something, a supply and demand of what is in the emotional bank account. And I think that got very disturbed. So, if I can say goodbye to my partner or my kids, or whoever, there is a release, and there are more energy resources available to me, that I can then make meaning of. If I am 24/7 with my children or with my family, that demand increases rapidly. And we simply ran out of time for self-care and being in a relationship with ourselves. So, I think that being in a relationship, and in right relationship with myself, is a part of the habit that needs to be re-established. So, that I can be in right relationship with those that I care deeply about,
Laurel: Right. That meaningful connection with self is a part of how it is that I can be in meaningful connections with other people.
Marita: Yes, if all my resources are given out because I tried to perform and I tried to be everything to them all the time. That’s not quite emotionally feasible. So, one of the things that I think is that there is something about, in order to be in that meaningful connection, what are the habits that I, or we now need to create again? I know Faith, my partner talks about – and other people that I’m friends with – was how yoga was such an important thing. That they would go to the yoga studio, do a yoga session and leave there feeling ready and open and resourceful emotionally. Now it happens at home. And a friend of mine was talking about how often she gets interrupted because her kid needs help on the homeschooling, or there’s a sandwich or someone that needs something, there’s an interruption. And those valuable places of self-recovery have diminished. So, I think when we look for meaningful relationships that’s a challenge for us because we are so relational that we want to give. That it is very difficult to hold a boundary and say, no, for the next hour, even though you are working at the dining table, just across from me, can we create an agreement on silence?
Laurel: And that’s interesting. So, I’ll give you the opposite side of that. For my husband and I, last year became a year where we had a full commitment to yoga, the two of us. And we actually practiced yoga every single day, last year. We did not miss one day of home practice, every day on the mat. And it… for us,
Marita: It was bonding.
Laurel: It was a connection thing. Because he was a dabbler in yoga, and I’m more of a practitioner. But for us, rolling out our mat together was a bonding experience, a way for us to have a connection. Now, we both were on our own mat with our own experience on them, but it became for us a way to be connected. What’s interesting is the idea that you have to find the thing that works for you or within your household that is going to make sense and be able to build connections. For some people it might be, Hey, this is my time and I need this space. And for someone else, it might become a thing where we can connect around this particular activity.
Marita: That’s the place where it really is about…I used to fly a lot and always when you took off and they went through the whole thing about the safety measures, and the instructions of masks on faces…. and put the mask on your own face first. So, it’s that knowledge of me. What is the mask that I need on my face before I can offer it to somebody else? And it will be different things for different people. For somebody it’s which are the places that you need to say, no and create a habit around that. And where are the places that you need to go to, the one is right. Because that makes meaning for me. That creates a connection for me. Rather than an irritation and then going for that one. But I think it’s that piece that is the need from me to know what goes on here, that makes it meaningful for me. And then to find out what is it that makes it meaningful for the two of us, and then go there.
There’s another story that reminds me of that… a friend who talked about their kids, when they were homeschooled – virtual. The kids got a challenge invitation. Every day, go outside and walk for 30 minutes. And the kid came and told his dad, and that then became the habit between the father and son. That day every day you go out for a 30-minute walk. And that created the connection again. But you can begin to imagine if there was a sense of guilt, Oh, I better do it. That it would become the friend-enemy again. So, it’s that honesty with self that really is not self-centered, but makes sure that in service to the mask that I need to wear, so that I can be available to you. What do I need to say yes to? And what do I need to negotiate the no? And then what do the two of us do together? But can you feel how it’s a very different conversation, from the one that habitually we could have walked into? And that I think is the opportunity of where we’re sitting – to be in that conversation with one another.
Laurel: I look forward to the day where we’re not always referencing the latest variant of COVID to determine what the conversation is about. So, let’s step forward to that lovely place. For listeners, if they’re curious about wanting to create this greater sense of belonging. This deeper sense of connection with self, with others, where’s the place for them to begin? What is it that you think is the place to start looking in order to do that?
Marita: I think that it will be different for different people, but my caution is always to make sure that we’re ready to take the step forward or is there another place that we need to pause? Because the thing that we often talk about is myth change happens, and myth in the Joseph Campbell sense of the word, that is the positive history of what is, that we can create from. But there was a mess of myths change. And so, at the moment, it feels like we are in the messy middle of it. We’re not quite out of it. We’re in that messy middle where it still haunts us and it’s still there. So, know where you are. Are you in the messy middle? Or are there things that now are gone that you need to grieve about and need to talk about?
I miss going to do XYZ. I grieve that we may never do this and this… So, there is this messy middle, where we are upset, and helpless and whatever. But there’s also a place of grieving. And until we can grieve those places, I’m not sure that we can take the step forward. So, just for everybody… know where you are; we all are in the messy middle and in that messy middle, are there things that you still need to grieve and go, dang, that’s not going to happen again? One of the things I’m sitting with is, as I get older, I used to love flying to different places. And now, I suddenly noticed I’m not that interested anymore. And suddenly I go, Hmm, did COVID steal a year from me in which I still wanted to fly, and now I don’t want to fly.
But can you feel how there’s a complexity to that? So, it really is what are the things that we just need to acknowledge? And when we acknowledge it, write it down on a piece of paper and put a match to it, or put it in a fireplace, whatever, but create a little bit of a ritual and a habit about it. This I am sad about because it’s never going to happen again, and I’m now letting it go.
Then begin to look at it what’s the new habit that I can begin to create to help me create that connection. And the place that I really want to point people, that I know is familiar and lives in your principles as well, is that there’s a place of contemplation. There’s a place of stillness. Whether I do it by myself or I sit with somebody else and we just share: Here’s the thing that I am sitting with at the moment.
And then we take 10 minutes and we just sit and not talk. And then we share again. How do we do that virtually? And how do we do that in a way that we can connect on the virtual screen now? But we can also say, okay, I’m going to see you… turn off your video, I’m going to see you back in 10 minutes. I’ve got my phone on WhatsApp and I can talk because I’m going to walk around outside. Where you look out the window, because I know it’s snowy there, but we are going to talk. What are the innovations that we can bring to our relationship that will change the scene and that will help us…. because that was cool. That was really good to do. So, there are habits that we need to reinvent and how do we do that consciously?
Laurel: And it seems too that because we are in the messy middle of it and because they feel like there are a lot of obstacles to have the connection that perhaps we’re desiring it. Or as I’m sure, the research shows there’s a reason why that sense of belonging or connection is important to us. It’s not just Oh, that would be a great thing to have. There’s an actual reason for why it’s important to us. We look at the obstacles, instead of looking at how we can build connections in spite of those obstacles.
It’s like when you’re talking about your fleeting connections? They’re not exactly the same now when we do have them, because we’re wearing a mask, an actual mask. And so, the way in which you would have this facial expression with a person that you’re passing on the street is now different, because it’s coming completely through your eyes, it’s not coming through your entire face. And to me, there’s a bit of a wonderful invitation to that. Being able to make the connection in spite of the fact that, okay, I can’t show you I’m smiling, but we can still tell that someone’s smiling if they’re bringing their eyes to the smile.
Marita: Yes. Well, it’s interesting. I started reading research several years ago about longevity studies and stuff, because as coaches, we tend to live fairly in an isolated way because 99.9% of my clients and the people that I train are virtual. I don’t see them in person. So, it’s on the phone, or it’s on Zoom. So, we tend to live fairly isolated in certain professions, like coaching. So, when I became aware of it, it’s like, I need to work on my social construct. So, my favorite thing became going to whether it’s a Safeway or whatever store and making a point to make contact with, and have a conversation with somebody in the store or the person… And I can tell you wonderful stories of things that were happening. And it was just so meaningful with people that I will never see again.
There was this one woman that came in and she was an older woman and she had a young boy that clearly was the grandchild. And she had him sitting in the wagon and there were the other things, and she was behind me and she was very subdued. And so, they came through the line and the cashier that I was cashing out with is somebody that I’ve had conversations with before in my search for that social construct. So he knows ordinarily when I get there he’s thinking Oh, what is she going to do again today? There’s this expectation. So, I started having a conversation with him, and I said to her, do you know that that’s a very expensive product that you’ve got? I don’t know that they even sell those. I was talking about the kid and the guy behind the counter goes, oh man, I don’t know how anybody affords that… and the kid was just smiling and carrying on. This whole thing continued for a while.
And then I left, I packed my stuff and she finished up. And I was walking to my car and I could hear somebody yell. Hi, and it was her. And she came up to me and she said, no stranger has ever connected with me like that. Thank you.
So, how do we do that now? Because people are still out on the street. And I started this thing where we’d get groceries delivered… our front door has a glass pane in it, and when the deliveries come, I make sure that I’m standing in front of that glass pane and the people come and I wave. And so now there’s this whole ritual because often it’s the same people. And I know that that’s meaning-making for me because it was a fleeting connection with somebody that I may never see, and I know it made a difference for them. So, those are the pieces. Because then I go with a different fullness back to my partner and back to my family, and from that fullness, I can give in a very different way.
Laurel: Yeah. And it is not just the remembering the importance of connection and bringing that conscious intentionality to what we’re doing, pandemic aside or not, that there’s always this opportunity, right? Whether it’s in a phone call with somebody or on social media or wherever it is that there’s this opportunity to always be able to build that sense of belonging. And, I think it’s fair to say that belonging feels like it’s in camps now. That you belong here or you belong there, and we forget that there’s the beautiful “I’ll meet you in the field” quote by Rumi – that there’s also that other space.
Marita: I think that’s our biggest challenge at the moment, because in a change like this, there’s a saying that whatever were the cracks in the building become the chasms. And I think we’ve seen the chasms. Politically, in terms of racial discrimination and Black Lives Matter, there is a whole different invitation to how we reach so that I’m not the liberal or the conservative. But how do we reach for the humanity in which we can have the conversation? I think that there’s a whole different conversation opener that is about what is the conversation that will really have you feel connected, fulfilled, and happy when we leave. Even If we don’t see one another ever again. Imagine asking that from a stranger. Or imagine asking that from your family. What is the thing that I can give you, that if you know I’m going to do that, the next time that you know I’m going to come home or walk into the room that you’re working, you’re going to go, Oh, yay! She’s going to be … What is that thing that I can bring? So those kinds of conversations. If we can have those, with our children and grandchildren, we are creating different generations that are people-focused in a very different way.
Laurel: I just feel like there’s such a lovely opportunity and I appreciate your caution there, that we don’t have to take the lessons of the pandemic and run forward immediately. That we can sit with them and recognize where we are and that there is this beautiful opportunity of the lessons. And then, what do I want to take forward? There are just so many wonderful questions that arose that we can sit in contemplation about those.
Marita: I think it’s both… and we have to do the grieving. I mean, it’s really easy for me to have this conversation with you because I didn’t lose anybody to COVID. So, I’m very aware of my saying it’s different for everybody. But what is it that each one of us needs to grieve and what do we need to grieve collectively? So, that’s the pause, but then it’s only after I’ve done that I can be intentional in what is it that we’ve learned, that we can celebrate. Like you with your husband and yoga? Wow. That was a gift from COVID. Thank you!
Laurel: Yes. Even though there were days when either one or both of us were probably bringing our grumbling selves to the mat. But it…yeah, it became a new and interesting conversation to have.
Marita: Yes. That’s also a place of the habits… There’s a wonderful book, and I can’t remember the author that talks about Atomic Habits. One of the ones that I’ve started recently, because things are changing so much and there’s so much going on, is, my team and Faith knows that if they come to talk to me and I say, at this moment, I am not good for human consumption. They turn around and walk away. So, what are those safe words and sentences that we use and that person knows it’s not about you. Otherwise, if I allow the conversation, it’s going to become about you. Can you feel how it forces us to create different meaning-making in different depths of connection?
Laurel: Well, I feel like Marita that we could just spend the next, however long, we could just keep going.
Marita: I know.
Laurel: So, I’d love to have you come back again and have more conversation…
Marita: And I’d love that. One of the things I realized that was through my mind before I sat down on this call because the whole morning was filled with strategic meetings. And I looked at my calendar and it’s like, Oh, thank goodness. This is going to be a different piece, where there’s not going to be pressure. There’s going to be relationships. So, I really would invite people to listen as well. Your listeners really begin to feel and look into their lives. And what are the things that they,from their own personal perspective, what is it that gives you a smile on your face and a happy feel? Then create a habit for that. And what is it that you together with a partner or a grandchild or a child, what is that thing that will make the both of you happy? Have that conversation and then create habits around that. I think a part of the messy middle is the invitation to create new habits. New relationship habits for meaning and everything.
Laurel: So, I will leave for everyone, some links in the show notes. Links to Marita’s articles that she’s written about belonging. I think you’ll find that really interesting. And if you’re interested in more about the type of work that she does, we’ll leave some links there too so that you can follow through on that. And of course, as always, feel free to leave comments or send me an email if this has stirred questions for you. Please be sure to subscribe to the podcast and share it with people that you think might be interested in this conversation. And next time we’ll dive in and explore another one of the Savor the Day Principles.
The great journey of this life is not that it’s a straight line, it’s an up and down and backward and twirling crazy line. And so, our job is really about learning how to savour it. Whether it’s a up or a down or a sideways or a backward day and how we can do that with grace and with ease and with love and presence. And so next time I hope that you will tune in again. Thanks for taking the time to be with us.
Marita: Thank you, Laurel.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to The Being and The Doing, with your host, Laurel Vespi. If you liked this episode and think other people would, please subscribe, rate, and give a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to tune in next week for another conversation about The Being and The Doing. Thanks for listening.