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How To Create Shared Affection
William R Collier Jr

How we see others and ourselves determines how we treat people. If we see others as valuable and worth caring for, and if we ourselves as valuable and worth being cared for, then we can and we will care for them and believe that they can share a form of identity with us.

Bringing people together around common goals, asking them to care for one another, and showing them the power of a shared identity all happen with plain old “togetherness”- getting people to spend time communicating and sharing together at the same place and time, face to face, and with regularity.

You have to have a time and space for potential (qualified) members of your community to connect in a meaningful way that they actually ENJOY. If nobody likes “meetings”, don’t use that venue, create activity times for people to DO things together and use small break periods to share a presentation that is interesting and that informs people about the goals, the need for affection, and that constantly presents the shared identity.

Of course, “meetings”, having a discussion and forming a consensus, must occur, but only for those who aspire more to leadership. For those who do not have such aspirations, “meetings” can be extremely wearisome, so don’t try to “fit” people into them if those people are not aspiring to such leadership.

The key thing is not, as you might suspect, your “awesome” ideas and concepts. The key thing is to get people who have shared goals to be in the same space at the same time to do things together, even if those things are just fun and entertainment. Entertain people with a message, give people a fun time and tell them about goals, affection, or shared identity.

Getting people to come together, encouraging them to connect to each other, and giving them things to do or participate in is the best thing to do. Telling them all about your vision and mission and all those other things important, because it adds depth to your community, but if you start with togetherness then shared identity will come and when it does it will have depth.

People cannot identify with something that has no activity and no connectivity with other people, so start with activity and connectivity and then layer in goals, vision, mission, and shared identity in an unobtrusive but persistent and obvious manner.

Activity times can include picnics, open houses, movies, debates, skits, special projects, or problem-solving sessions, among other things.

Don’t just have “teaching” or “lectures”, unless you are training people in something they want to become better at for personal or professional reasons. Of course, as with any rule of thumb, there are exceptions- a deign team that must be quickly brought up to speed must be prepared for “teachings” and “lectures” as these activities can deliver the most amount of content and information in the shortest space of time.

To get people together, call them together, on the basis of an activity that answers a felt need. Whatever the most commonly felt need is, that is the ideal need to address. Is it crime? Call people to a neighborhood watch. Is it low sales? Call people to a sales training session that will really help them. Are church members experiencing an economic downturn? Have a get-together to look for ways to save money by buying food in bulk together.

At these activities, get people to use each other’s names (name tags), encourage them multiple times to connect with each other, get them all to be on a virtual discussion list or forum, and share elements of your vision, starting with the most accessible and readily understandable elements first and building upon them.

People will naturally network, but they often need “permission” to do so- give them permission by connecting yourself and asking individuals “have you connected with at least one other person you did not know before?”

Never just put out an idea or suggestion and leave it at that- find individuals to personally encourage and ask them to do the same thing with at least two other people.

When you do your activity, always be clear that you have a bigger agenda, that the activity is only the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of what a community can be and do.

Frequency is important, weekly get-togethers create continuity and, if done right, can become a highlight to people’s weeks, something they look forward to. If people prefer to watch TV and sit around doing nothing to being at your activity, then don’t blame them, blame yourself and make changes until they prefer coming to your activity.

When people connect with each other, then they are more likely to connect to your vision, so get them in one place at the same time, and, with little guidance or “management” from you, they will grow into common affection with one another.