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99's On the Go
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Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2017 Brian Remer
Updated Oct. 2017
99's on the 9th
based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.
Relationships that bond and bridge
When people don't get along, it's easy to tell them to "just be friends" without suggesting how that might be done. At a time when we are so easily distracted by suspicion and fear of people we don't know well, you can lead a discussion with your co-workers about the glue that holds society together in this issue of 99's on the 9th.
Angela was born, raised, and lived her entire adult life on Long Island. As an elder, she worried about her granddaughters: challenges as young women, teen life online, friends they would make. Her own life had been different.
"We knew everybody. All our cousins lived just down the block. We never had to learn how to make friends," she said.
It's great to enjoy close family bonds. But knowing how to reach out across family or social groups to bridge differences is also critical.
Perhaps Angela would be less worried if she knew and could teach those skills.
You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.
Let's begin with that last discussion question.
What are the skills or qualities one needs to build bridges between social groups?
In his book, Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam discusses the concept of Social Capital, the value one accumulates through one's social connections. Putnam explains that, because we need other people to help us accomplish our goals, the network of friends and relationships that we nurture is a rich resource. He describes two kinds of relationships: Bonding and Bridging.
Bonding relationships are the connections between people of like interests, backgrounds and experiences. They include cultural groups, religious congregations, fans of a sports team, and, like the 99-Word Story, families. There is a natural inclination for people to gravitate toward and increase their commitment to these groups.
Bridging relationships are the connections that tie together different special interest groups. Various groups must work together to accomplish things that one single group cannot do on its own. Parents, students, and teachers work together to promote a policy with the school board. Churches, the Rotary club, and a veteran's group partner to resettle refugees in their community. In examples like these, someone has to be the bridge between the churches, Rotary, and veterans.
Knowing how to make friends is critical if you want to increase Social Capital - whether you are interested in Bonding or Bridging relationships. So what are the skills and qualities we can use to build friendships? In their book, Creating Community Anywhere, Carolyn Shaffer and Kristin Anundsen list several personal characteristics that are important for building community. They could just as well be labeled as qualities for building friendships.
- A healthy sense of self - Self-esteem and self-awareness
- Openness and flexibility - Welcoming diversity
- A sincere interest in others - Curiosity
- Willingness to abide by community agreements - Moving from "I" to "we"
- Willingness to pursue group goals - Putting your own needs in second place for a time
- Willingness to risk asserting yourself - Taking initiative
- Willingness to practice skills - Communication, negotiation, problem-solving, etc.
- Willingness to give and receive - To care for and be cared for
- Commitment to see it through - Stay with the group despite conflict
When people don't get along, it's easy to tell them to "just be friends" without suggesting how that might be done. At a time when we are so easily distracted by suspicion and fear of people we don't know well, the characteristics above offer a way to promote the trust that is the glue that holds society together.
For More Information:
Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, Touchstone, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2000.
Creating Community Anywhere by Carolyn R. Shaffer & Kristin Anundsen, Tarcher/Putnam, 1993.
Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.
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