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  • Writer's pictureDan Berger

The Connection Between Authentic Communities and Our Sense of Belonging (Summary)

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

This is the summary of a five part series on how authentic communities can create a sense of deep belonging.

There is a loneliness epidemic in our country and the cure is for people to find their sense of belonging. I believe that one impactful yet overlooked way to do so is through joining authentic communities.

Before we jump into studying authentic communities in more detail, let's look at what the research tells us about belonging in general. There are four paths to belonging:

  • Minor Sociability (“microinteractions”): Minor social interactions in our day-to day lives (e.g.: waving to neighbors)

  • Group Memberships (“community(s)”): being a member of a group that one may not even intentionally join (e.g. joining a book club)

  • General Approbation (“external approval”): people engaging in status-seeking activities, approval, or praise (e.g. wearing a brand names)

  • Communal Relationships (“intimate relationships”): the development of close/intimate relationships characterized by secure attachment (e.g. significant other).

Each path, and perhaps a combination of different activities within a few of them, helps people find belonging.

To put this abstract concept into practice, here are some examples of how I filled my “belonging bucket” when I moved to Idaho on a whim, ranked from least to most impactful:

  • External Approval - I engaged in the status-seeking activities to earn respect from my fellow Idahoans and blend in (e.g. bought a truck, adopted a minimalist aesthetic, etc.)

  • Microinteractions - I adopted Idahoan habits such as being [overtly] friendly to strangers.

  • Communities - Apart from joining several groups, I started a peer group called “Founders and Firepits” as well as a book club.

  • Intimate Relationships - I cut out unfulfilling friendships and doubled down on others but, most influentially, found my life partner.

For the first time in my life, at 40, I feel both settled and whole - I’ve found the deep belonging I’ve been seeking. I want to help others do the same.

Most specifically, I think that the Group Membership (Community) path has the most ROI in terms of time and reward when it comes to one's sense of belonging. It's why I focused on this belonging path in this five-part series...

I write regularly about belonging and community, and occasionally on hospitality, startups, and workplace culture. If you want to take a deeper dive, check out my blog and look out for my book coming later this year.

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