We naturally gravitate to belonging to a tribe – sporting teams, religions, interest groups. At work, we identify with our team or department. The need to have something to belong to and make strong social connections is very important to us.
The Science Behind This…
Every time we meet someone new, the brain automatically makes quick ‘friend or foe’ distinctions.
When we don’t have safe social interactions, the body generates a threat response that we know as feeling ‘lonely’.
If we feel excluded or isolated, our brain experiences the same response as if we have been physically hurt.
When we feel we’re connected or belong to something, the brain secretes the ‘feel good’ hormone – oxytocin – which disarms the threat response.
What can I do to help people feel they belong?
1. A handshake, swapping names and discussing something in common, be it just the weather, may increase feeling of closeness by causing the release of oxytocin.
2. Look for ways to include everyone – even (and especially) the quiet ones.
3. Don’t put people in a situation where they might feel rejected by the group.
4. Regular team building situations will increase a sense of belonging.