At the StartingBloc Institute in LA this past February, the organizers had a great challenge. To take 77 new fellows from all over the world, and in 5 days bring them so close together that the relationships they had formed would last a lifetime. We did not just need to meet 77 strangers, we needed to build trust and caring. The StartingBloc Fellowship is lifelong; the relationships you make during the Institute are supposed to grow throughout your life and provide a strong safety net for the many leaps and risks you must take as a leader of social change. After only 5 days, we left promising to visit, hugging and calling one another family. And no, we were not on drugs.
So how did they do it?
I truly can’t put together a formula for how this happens, but I can share one of our Day 1 exercises that was significant in opening the door to trusting, caring relationships. After discussing how allowing yourself to be vulnerable and open with another person can help to build trust, we practiced with a series of questions. An important note here: these questions build on one another in terms of increasing vulnerability. They should not be asked out of order and they should be asked in a setting which encourages intimacy.
1. Given your choice of anyone in the world (living or dead), who would you wish to have dinner with?
2. What would constitute your perfect day?
3. Is there something that you have always dreamed of doing? Why haven’t you done it yet?
4. What is your most treasured memory from your childhood?
5. If you had 1 year left to live, what would you do?
6. What is your most embarrassing moment?
By having a conversation with a stranger focused on these questions, we were able to delve deeper and develop lasting connections. I now know Santosh (my partner for this activity) much more intimately than I know friends whom I have known for years.
I encourage you to give this a try. Maybe with your partner or maybe with a new friend. Let me know how it goes. As Houston Spencer said, “The only change that lasts is the change you create with others”, and in order to build something together with other people, we have to first have trusting relationships.