For most of my work life I have had to collaborate, communicate, and create with people who aren’t living in my head with me.
Sometimes, this works. There’s hardly anything as fulfilling as being part of a group of creative people churning out great products and ideas.
The unfortunate downside for many of us is that pouring into people and projects saps our energy, pushes our personal boundaries, and presents us with multiple opportunities to say the wrong thing, offend someone, or let the team down.
That’s enough to make us dread collaborative community!
Like it or not (and sometimes, definitely not…), we need each other.
Cast your mind back to a time in your life where you were largely isolated from others. Perhaps it was that time your cruise ship went down and you were stranded on a deserted island for three years. What happened? If you’re anything like me, you’ll recall that while you were the same incredible person you’ve always been, your thoughts were trapped in the mind of an individual completely wrapped up in her own opinions and experiences. In order to avoid the isolation of centered-on-self thinking, we must be bold and intentionally live out the belief that not only are we valuable and worthwhile, people other than us are valuable and worthwhile.
Being in authentic community with others means being able to recognize that we are all valuable, flawed, sometimes right and sometimes wrong, but always worthy.
I’ve discovered three guiding principles of collaborative community that I’ve cleverly dubbed The Three Guiding Principles of Collaborative Community. Here you go:
Empathy is cheap if not paired with authentic community. Empowered with real people and real issues, empathy goes from being fleeting moments of intense vicarious experience to a deeply rooted, constant, unflinching and sometimes painful recognition that other people have hopes, dreams, and an internal thought life that is as vital to them as yours are to you. Empathy plus community gives us the guts to disagree with others but still respect them. Empathy plus community means even though we will not always agree with another person’s opinions and choices, we always recognize that person’s worth.
HUMILITY (BUT NOT TOO MUCH HUMILITY)
Readers who have never had a problem with too much humility: Remember all those times your parents told you that you were unique? I bet that pumped the air into your balloon! Stick a pin in it. Everyone else’s parents told them that too. We are each unique, and we cannot insist on our own way over what works best for the community. Our culture takes pride in individuality. This sometimes translates into us doing whatever we want and telling anyone who has a concern with it to mind their own business. You may have the right to do something, but that doesn’t mean the thing you’re doing is right.
If you start from a community-minded view and allow your focus to narrow when necessary to the one, you may find not that you’re thinking less of yourself, but that you are experiencing the blissful relief of thinking of yourself less.
Readers who are currently hiding your low self-worth with a mask of “humility”: We have a responsibility to understand what we are capable of and give it to the world. Dying to ourselves does not mean forgetting our own worth. Use the value you recognize in others as a springboard to see the value in yourself.
When we idolize other creators, makers, and doers, we miss the magical not-so-secret secret: they became that way because they saw what the community needed, got busy, and did not question their own worth. You can do that too.
This is a radical thing to say, but we shine brightest in the context of community. We often hear about self care; have you ever heard of community care? The world is scary right now and our communities are polarized. We are building walls and building walls and building walls until all we can do is shout back and forth at each other over the walls we’ve built.
Start bulldozing those walls.
When you believe someone is wrong, be bold enough to approach them with love in your eyes and your heart and pouring from your mouth.
Build your community, even if it means you don’t get your way. Your words and actions will inspire either love or hate in everyone who sees them. Let it be love.
Being in community is not easy. However, when we live out a belief that we are not just individuals but a community of people with value and worth, we are empowered to be bold in building what is good, and demolishing what is not.
If you’re wondering where to start when it comes to developing authentic community, we’ve put together 10 great questions that will help you get deep and authentic with your community.
These kinds of things do take time and patience to create and do well, but our hopes are that these questions help you get started on the right foot.
Click the button below to grab the free PDF!
Photos by Valerie Denise