Welcome to the show notes for the 2nd episode of the podcast Coliving Conversations, a show that shines light on the people, projects, and places of the blossoming coliving movement!
In this episode, join co-hosts Naima Ritter Figueres and Juan Ortiz for an insightful conversation with Kat Vellos. Kat is a connection coach, experience designer and author of the book We Should Get Together – The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships. Dive into this episode to learn about concrete ways to foster connection and thriving relationships in community living.
Listen to Episode 2
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Key Resources mentioned in Episode 2 (Season 1)
Click on the links below to see where they were mentioned in this episode.
There you will find a link to the original source.
- We Should Get Together: Combining expert research and personal stories pulled from conversations with hundreds of adults, We Should Get Together is the modern handbook for making and maintaining stronger friendships. Kat Vellos tackles the four most common challenges of adult friendship: constant relocation, full schedules, the demands of partnership and family, and our culture’s declining capacity for compassion and intimacy in the age of social media.
Loneliness: The cost of the ‘last taboo: Research from the London School of Economics (LSE) shows that there is a “stigma” around admitting to loneliness.
- The Community Facilitation Handbook: A holistic framework to make communities flourish. It includes strategies, tools & and more. Coliving Awards 2021 “Best Thought Leadership Piece” Winner.
Social eating connects communities: Research from Oxford suggesting that communal eating increases social bonding and feelings of wellbeing, and enhances one’s sense of contentedness and embedding within the community.
The Power of Vulnerability: a talk by Brené Brown showing that vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness.
- Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team: Five behaviors that – if maximized— will result in a team that operates as efficiently and effectively as possible. Based on the groundbreaking book by Patrick Lencioni. The five behaviours are: Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and Results.
About Coliving Conversations
The first season of Coliving Conversations will kick off with new podcasts aired every two weeks and can be listened to on many platforms including Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast and at ConsciousColiving.com/Podcast. This show asks the question – how is shared living already tackling some of the biggest challenges that we face today AND how can we scale it in the way that the world needs?
You will gain insight into the latest trends shaping the industry and hear loads of practical tips related to shared living business models, technology, and investment as well as how to enhance community, wellbeing and sustainability.
Season 1 Partners
Addressing Loneliness & Facilitating Connection through Shared Living
[00:00:00] Naima: How can friendships and thriving relationships be better enabled in community living?
Welcome to Coliving Conversations, a show that shines light on the people, projects and places of the blossoming coliving movement.
Hi, my name is Naima Ritter Figueres, Head of Community & Wellbeing at Conscious Coliving. And I’m here in the studio today with my co-host for this episode, Juan Ortiz, who is Head of Communications & Technology at Conscious Coliving. Juan has a background in coaching systems thinking, team dynamics, leadership development and technology. So, really great to have you join us today for this episode.
[00:00:52] Juan: Hi Naima. Thanks for that kind introduction. Great to be here with you today.
[00:00:59] Naima: In this episode, we are gonna dive into the topic of how to facilitate connection and friendship in community living. We’re gonna explore some of the main challenges to building friendships, the factors that enable strong relationships to emerge and why this is so important for community building. So, Juan, why is this so important?
[00:01:20] Juan: Well first because loneliness is huge nowadays. And so anything that helps tackle loneliness is very needed and welcome. And secondly, because many of the challenges that shared living communities and businesses face are directly related to the quality of relationships, and the way that these relationships are facilitated within the community.
[00:01:41] Naima: Yes, so excessive conflict and miscommunication among residents, for instance, can take a huge toll on resident wellbeing and operations. And also the cost of non-engaged community members can be really significant for a coliving business. So operators might not understand why, for instance, their events and activities are not effectively fostering community engagement.
And this might not only affect the reputation of the brand, but unsatisfied residents can also lead to a lower retention rate, which means more spending on marketing and acquisition.
[00:02:19] Juan: Yeah, indeed. So there’s a lot at stake here for operators and the possible benefits are many. And today we’re lucky because we get to talk to Kat Vellos, who is a connection coach, experience designer and also the author of the book We Should Get Together, which is all about how to cultivate connection and friendships in adulthood.
[00:02:42] Naima: Yep. And just to give a little overview of the conversation today, the key points we’re going to cover are: the main challenges for meaningful relationships, the role of coliving in addressing loneliness and other challenges, how we can create more safe and nurturing contexts for the emergence of connection in community and Kat’s top three tips for coliving operators.
[00:03:06] Juan: And, Naima and I will meet you again after the conversation with Kat to explore how these have implications on some of the key aspects of community building and facilitation, including onboarding, events and activities, and team dynamics.
So stay tuned until the end.
[00:03:27] Naima: And before we dive in, I wanna quickly give a big shout out to our partners without whom season one of Coliving Conversations would not be possible. These are:
Spaceflow: an all-in-one tenant experience platform to enable better life in buildings.
Coly, a scientific profiling and matchmaking platform for shared living.
And GoHumanGo!: a collective of professionals suppor
ting people and planet.
Okay, well welcome Kat to Coliving Conversations! So happy to have you on the show today.
[00:04:05] Kat: Thank you so much for having me here, Naima. It’s really great to be here.
[00:04:08] Naima: So Kat you are a connection coach and you are the author of a book on cultivating friendships.
Could you share a little bit what sparked this life journey for you?
[00:04:21] Kat: Yeah. sure. The main thing to start from is the acknowledgment that I am an introvert and have pretty much always been. What that means for me is that I typically don’t need a whole lot of socializing to feel satisfied.
And, I’ve been really lucky to have really good friendships over the years and never really understood loneliness, because I was like, who doesn’t like spending time alone? I love spending time alone! I have like projects I can work on. I have arts, I have hobbies, I have books. And so I never really understood loneliness growing up and like in my twenties and even early thirties. And I’ve moved from different cities and different places and started over in new places. It’s always been very exciting and interesting.
However in adulthood, you have like kind of phases. There’s the phase where suddenly all your friends are getting partnered up and running and getting married. And then suddenly, everyone’s having babies and having kids. My life didn’t look like a lot of my friends’ lives in those ways.
And so I suddenly got the experience of, understanding what loneliness felt like when I wanted to have people to hang out with. And there was nobody available because I hadn’t planned like six weeks in advance to book time with them. Previously I had always been, very accustomed to just having people around, and if it was like a beautiful Saturday and it was like, Hey, who wants to go like get a bite to eat or meet up, there were people available.
Loneliness for me came in when suddenly I realized that when that hunger for connection was there, there wasn’t a very easy way to get that filled. And it gave me a lot of empathy for perhaps feelings of loneliness that people had. You know, I’ve been hearing about it for many years, but I just didn’t really understand because I enjoy spending time by myself.
But there’s a difference between enjoying solitude and loneliness. Solitude is being alone and enjoying being alone, and loneliness is when there’s a gap between the amount of connection that you have and the amount of connection that you want.
In that case, I wanted more than I had. And so suddenly I could understand and feel what loneliness was like. My curiosity to explore this, particularly in writing, particularly in my research, was informed by the fact that the work I was doing at the time and, over the last seven years or so was as a user experience designer — that’s also called UX designer and researcher — which strives to understand when people face a challenge, accomplishing a certain goal or completing a certain task, we really try to understand like what’s getting in the way of that task. What are problems that they’re facing and also what are possible solutions that are working either that other people are finding or that we can design and create as solutions to make that task or goal easier.
And so my curiosity around friendship-making in adulthood and loneliness in adulthood, was very much affected by the fact that five days a week, I was going to work and doing that kind of user experience, design and research. And so those two things overlapped greatly at that time.
I spent the next several years really digging into that question of “How do we build better friendships in adulthood?”. “How do we create and maintain friendships in adulthood?” despite the many challenges adults face, with busy lives and busy work and, and all those things. And also have more success with friendship as well.
So that’s a little bit about how design in my life and also my experience of connection personally, interacted to lead me to write this book.
[00:08:04] Naima: Well, I’m so eager to, to dive into a lot more of that, which we will in this conversation. Um, but first you mentioned, this hunger for connection, and I think, you’ve you use this term called platonic longing. Could you define or describe that for the audience?
[00:08:22] Kat: Yeah. So platonic longing is a phrase that I coined and used in the book because I found that our language is lacking in terms to describe very specific kinds of feelings and emotions.
And we have the understanding in our culture and in Western culture of unrequited love. You know, there’s, there’s so much in our society that focuses on romantic love, and we understand what it’s like. There’s so many movies and songs and stories about unrequited love, where people are longing for a romantic partner or to be in love, or to have someone be back in love with them. And it’s not there. It’s not happening.
And what I was hearing over and over again, in these conversations I was having in interviews, I was doing with other adults about their experiences of connection and disconnection and friendship and loneliness was there was this longing for that kind of connection, but it wasn’t in the romantic sense.
It was a platonic longing. There was this craving for friendship, this craving for. Deep like loving friendship, in a completely platonic way. And so platonic longing really speaks to that ache for connection in a friendship connection in deep friendship, connection, and meaningful friendship.
[00:09:36] Naima: I love that term in the expression I think you defined it in the book is “the unfulfilled wish for authentic, resilient and close friendships”. So I just wanna like quote that big somewhere!
So thanks for explaining that. And, um, you know, it feels like this longing, this hunger for friendship is so connected to the loneliness pandemic, you know, the pandemic that existed before the COVID pandemic, which I was also researching a lot, from my own experience of loneliness.
And that’s also really what got me into coliving and exploring how we can foster connection among people. And in your book, you. dedicate several chapters to, um, the challenges for forming friendships, which I think really is related to the challenge of why there’s so much loneliness. Could you outline those challenges for us?
[00:10:34] Kat: Yeah. So I should mention that as I describe the four main challenges, the book doesn’t only look like, oh my gosh, boohoo, what’s wrong? It also looks at solutions. So there’s also many, many solutions offered for overcoming each of these challenges. So I just wanna state that upfront so it doesn’t just sound like it’s a book about problems.
So the four main challenges that I was hearing most frequently, most commonly, in the interviews I was having with all of these people about experiences of friendship and adulthood typically went into one of four groups.
So the first was hypermobility. And this is what I call in the book, the experience that we have of people moving all the time and whether that’s moving out of, in and out of cities, in and out of states, countries, jobs, or just being on the move all the time.
Particularly before the pandemic too, we also had the constant movement of commuting and, people who have very long commutes as well will often complain that they don’t have time for friendship, because they spend 10 hours a week commuting, 20 hours a week commuting. And they have had the experience as well of having many of their friends move away. So hypermobility is problem number one.
Problem number two is busyness. Everyone says they’re too busy for friendships. Their life is so full. They have so many things going on. It’s just too hard to find time to connect with their friends.
The third challenge is, romantic relationships and family. In adulthood, many people get into a serious primary relationship where they have babies and they’re raising kids. And all of these things take a lot of time, a lot of attention, and it doesn’t mean that these things are “problems” or that they’re wrong or shouldn’t happen, but it’s just an inhibitor to friendship because so much attention goes to those other relationships.
And then the fourth challenge is difficulty establishing intimacy in friendship. Many people that I talk to describe the experience of having hundreds of friends on Facebook or on Instagram or, acquaintances or professional colleagues, but not actually feeling close and intimate or feeling like they can take one of these cool acquaintances and, you know, transform them into a best friend.
Not knowing how to get deeper than just talking about the weather and, you know, sharing updates on social media. And so getting closer is one of the challenges that people face — not really knowing how to do that.
[00:13:05] Naima: Mm. how to get beyond the small talk.
[00:13:08] Kat: Yes, exactly.
[00:13:10] Naima: Which is another of Kat’s amazing initiatives. Um, so thanks for outlining those challenges, Kat super useful, and I think super resonating for me and probably most listeners.
Um, what role would you say that shared living communities, coliving communities, play in addressing these challenges? And I know you also lived in a coliving community, so would love for you to bring in some of your experience from that as well.
[00:13:38] Kat: Yeah. I mean, I, I feel really lucky that I had the experience to live in coliving. And I’ll clarify here for anyone who’s listening: there’s a lot of different ways to interpret that. There’s the experience of simply living with roommates or housemates, which I have done dozens of times. There’s also the coliving 2.0 version of that, which is where you like choose to live in an intentional community, often with many, many more people and much more structure around how you’re going to, create space or maybe there’s a business involved that helps sustain the community or, or just other ways, beyond just cutting the rent in four pieces.
I feel like coliving, particularly in the experience I had living in an intentional community, was just profound. I really do think that it is a wonderful way to address the loneliness epidemic which has been spreading for the last couple of decades in the United States and elsewhere.
And it’s a solution to so many of the problems that we have living our village-less lives. Normally our lives are marked by a lot of independence, which sometimes gives rise to loneliness. There’s this sense of not really having a sense of community typically for many people. And when you live in a coliving situation or an intentional community, you have community built in and if it’s done well, there’s also so much support.
There are so many different kinds of support and learning and expansion that can happen because you’re in a space with people who are committed to the same goals and values and willing to co-create an alternate reality together.
And it’s really unlike the experience of living in a city or living in an apartment. It’s really profound.
Mm. Yeah. Um, I can talk about that more if you have other questions.
[00:15:38] Naima: No, I mean. We of course, totally agree with that. I love how you’re saying that that community is built in right. And support and the, the opportunities for connection, um, just become normalized. We, you don’t have to book somebody six weeks in advance to get French fries.
Right. But it’s just, you go downstairs and whoever’s there. You have a chat and then you feel less lonely and more connected. And if you wanna, you know, go to your room and have your private space, you have that as well. So, um.
[00:16:07] Kat: Thanks for the shout-out for the first line of my book which, the opening line says “French fries taste more delicious when you’re not eating them alone.”
[00:16:18] Naima: There we go! Haha! Um, so let’s just stay with this kind of community image in mind. How can we create more safe and nurturing context for the emergence of friendships to …emerge? haha. Um, and if you could weave in the term, hydroponic friendship, I would love for you to do that.
[00:16:40] Kat: Sure. So in the book, I also coined another term called hydroponic friendship.
And, for anyone who’s not a gardening nerd like me and into plants and speaking in plant metaphors all the time: Hydroponics is when you grow plants in highly nutritious water instead of soil. And the reason why I used the metaphor of hydroponic friendship in the book is because many, many people were saying that one of the main reasons they didn’t have the friendships they wanted is because they didn’t have time.
They didn’t have time for friends. They didn’t have time to hang out with their friends or to spend time. And when we think about, okay, what if you were gonna grow a plant, but you didn’t have what you need [like soil]? What you need to do then is make this highly nutritious water, put the roots in there, and grow it in there.
And often, plants grow way better when you grow them hydroponically than when you grow them just in soil and leave them alone. And so the concept there is that in the absence of endless hours of abundant luxurious time, what could you do to make your friendships grow strong? What I propose is to say, when you do spend time together, make it as a highly nutritious, highly fertile ground as possible. So that you’re having deep, deep connection, having meaningful shared experiences, building memories — all of those things supercharge that time so that it isn’t wasted.
Not talking about the weather or not opening up about what matters to you. Hydroponic friendship is when you decide to go deep with the limited amount of time that you have.
And so, in the context of how to create safe and nurturing friendships that then support the emergence of closer bonding in a friendship, I think it’s important for there to be high levels of trust. I describe what I also call the four seeds of connection in the book.
The four seeds of connection that are necessary for friendships to grow are frequency, proximity, commitment, and compatibility.
And you don’t need all four of them at a hundred percent all the time for a friendship to grow. For example, one of my best friends, we don’t have any proximity. We live on opposite sides of the country, but we have high commitment, high compatibility, and good frequency. And we used to be roommates 18 years ago.
And so that helped cement the bond of our friendship. So there’s ways to intentionally dial up those things, to nurture the friendship so that it is stronger. If you have compatibility, great, because it’s really hard to create that if it’s not there naturally. You can then dial up your frequency, you can dial up your proximity, you can dial up the things that build commitments such as trust, reciprocity, openness, all of those things that then are like fertilizer for that plant of your friend.
[00:19:25] Naima: Wow. I love that. And so practical, like to have those four.
[00:19:30] Kat: The seeds of connection.
[00:19:31] Naima: The seeds of connection. I love that. Um, and you know, you’ve talked in the conversation already about, you’ve used the word acquaintance, friend, close friend. How do you define the difference between those?
[00:19:44] Kat: Yeah, I asked many of the people I interviewed this exact same question and I actually wanna share some of their answers for this one, because I think that they define it quite beautifully.
For an acquaintance: This is often described as someone I know basic details about someone that I know in passing. I might say hi to them, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet up with them. It’s a limited superficial relationship, like a friend of a friend or someone you can just make small talk with. You don’t have a deep, emotional connection to them.
And then a friend, is often described as: Someone that I don’t have to try hard to have a conversation with. Someone I know well, we know each other’s life circumstances and how we got to be, who we are. Someone that I feel safe and happy with and that I wanna hang out more with.
And for a close friend: This gets more deep. So this includes someone who’s wellbeing I care deeply about and who I feel confident I can depend on. If I’m going through a rough patch, they are with me until the end. This is also someone I make time to see regularly one on one, who accepts me completely for who I am and vice versa.
Someone I never feel like I need to entertain. Someone I would discuss intimate details of my life with they know my secrets and fears. And they’ll tell me what I need to hear. Even if I don’t like it. Someone I can tell my problems to without feeling ashamed. Someone who is integrated into my life.
So those are all definitions that I include in the book that I think really get to the heart of what the difference between these kinds of relationships are and what the difference in the type of closeness in these relationships are. And it doesn’t mean that we should only have close friends.
We need acquaintances too, and we need middle casual friends too. But it’s meaningful to think about for yourself, you know, how would you define these things? And when you think about creating more connection in your life, which of these categories are you actually hoping to build?
[00:21:49] Naima: Yeah. Super useful. Thank you for sharing those and things to your, the people you research to who shared those with us. Um, you’ve also shared that you are a facilitator and you’ve done lots of community building workshops and, you know, in community and in coliving spaces, there is often a lot of desire for facilitation.
Could you expand on what kind of community building workshops you’ve done and what are some of the key learnings you’ve gotten from that?
[00:22:20] Kat: Yeah, so I’ve done a lot of workshops over the last 20 years, but for, for the context of this conversation, I would say, I’ve done workshops particularly around building closer friendships and understanding what friendship is in our life.
When we wanna cultivate friendship, there’s a lot of avenues we can explore around that. So that includes thinking about what are our patterns as friends? What are the things holding us back? What are the fears that we bring into friendship, and also what are the gifts that we bring into friendship? How can we break down those walls that are holding us back from the friendships that we want? And then creating action plans to then go out and create what we would like to have in our lives and to share with others.
Another workshop kind of series that I’ve been running is called Connection Club. And it’s less of a workshop, but more of a community of intention around building connection in our lives. And so it functions like an accountability group for writing letters and connecting with friends, and then also getting closer to other people who value authentic connection and community and having deeper conversations each time we gather on a specific theme or topic.
Many, many people who’ve been a part of that series have said that they’ve not only built closer friendships in their lives, through the people they’re writing letters to, but they also then take the practices that we practice together around presence, showing up authentically, asking meaningful questions, listening from the heart, and then they go and practice that with other people too And they’ve said that it helps bring them closer relationships with the people in their lives.
[00:23:54] Naima: One question, some of the audience might be asking is, okay, so let’s say we’re in a coliving space. What’s the balance between really wanting to connect with everybody and be friends versus that more, that acquaintance?
Do you, did you get a sense from your own coliving experience? You know, what is a good amount of friendships to have and to maintain?
[00:24:15] Kat: Coliving spaces and communities can be any size. The one I was in was extremely large. So it was over 120 people at any given time. And every week there were some people departing and some people arriving and people would stay from a couple of months to 20 years.
And so it was a constantly fluctuating environment of people. And so it wasn’t realistic to think you could possibly be close friends with like over 100+ people all the time. But everybody, I would say generally had a friendly spirit toward everyone else. And that was part of the vibe there. It was like, you may not know that person, but of course you’re gonna smile at them if you pass them on the, on the path.
And so that’s one thing I’ll say that’s probably very different than a coliving space that has 15 people and they’re there permanently year around. There’s gonna be a lot more opportunity to get close with a smaller number of people over an expanded length of time that is quite stable.
It’s gonna be different if you’re in an environment that’s constantly changing where people are coming in and out, so take that into consideration. And I think it’s also important to take into consideration who you are as a person.
Like I said, I’m an introvert. Some people are extroverts. We have completely different orientations towards how many friends we want, how many friendships we can maintain, and what types of friendships are fulfilling for us. So it’s NOT really for me to say, “Here’s the answer for you. You should aim for this many friends and it’s the same for everyone.” But I think it’s important to self-reflect and really identify for yourself what that is, and then figure out how to do that in the setting that you’re in.
So in my example, I’m an introvert. I value having a smaller number of really close, deep friendships. And it’s hard for me when I have a high number of very shallow friendships. It doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with having casual light friendships that are not deep.
But for me, if I know 80 people but I never have a deep conversation with any of them and we just make chit chat, I’m gonna be unfulfilled. And I’m probably gonna get that weird experience of feeling lonely in a crowd. [You know what this is] if you’ve ever had that experience of being surrounded by people but feeling like no one knows you, or you don’t know who to open up to because you’re not close to any of them. When you’re lonely even though you’re surrounded by people. That’s weird. I don’t like it. That doesn’t float my boat.
So for me it meant carving out time to build deeper friendships with like 2, 3, 4, 5 people who were also gonna be there as long as I was. I was there for a year and it was hard for me when I made a close friend and a month later, they moved away. So I was looking to build stable friendships in a stable situation with other people who also wanted to go deeper and stay in that place longer.
[00:26:57] Naima: Yeah. And that’s so important to really know yourself and, and what makes sense for each individual’s personality. Yeah.
Um, okay. So we’re, we’re moving towards the end of the conversation. Um, could you share what would be your top tips for coliving operators to really help more meaningful connections to emerge among their residents?
[00:27:20] Kat: Yes. So my first top tip here is to plan for intentional connection. Don’t just assume that if you throw people together, they’re just gonna automatically get connected to each other and feel really deep and meaningful.
Plan it intentionally, create time and space for it. Put some intention, some design into it, make it fun, make it interesting. Make it heart-centered. But it does need to be taken care of intentionally.
The second top tip is don’t assume that everybody in a coliving space is an extrovert.
There are also introverts who do gravitate towards coliving, and to take care of the introverts in your community, make sure that there are opportunities for quiet time. Maybe it’s quiet hours. One ritual that we created was having a basket of white sashes and you could wear one if you were taking a day of silence.
Because in coliving, people assume you wanna talk all day long, every single day. And sometimes you don’t! We need to destigmatize quietness. We need to destigmatize silence, even. Like having a silent table where if you wanna eat and not talk, you can sit at the silent table and there’s nothing wrong with that.
So think about ways to create moments of peace and quiet as well, because so coliving can be very socially exhausting. It’s constant interaction all day and all night, every single day. So “take care of your introverts” is my second tip.
And then the third tip that I have is to listen well. Regularly invite the members of your coliving community to give feedback, to share requests. Let them speak up about what they would feel supported by and what they would like to experience, and then support them in helping to make that a reality.
[00:29:14] Naima: Love that. fantastic. Thank you. Thank you. Great. Um, Kat, what is something that’s weird or very unique about yourself?
[00:29:27] Kat: Haha, so I have a small one and a big one. One small, weird, unique thing about me is I really like to floss. Like, I floss a lot of times a day, and I think that’s really weird. But if I can’t floss, I’m really upset [laughter].
And the second thing that’s kind of a bit weird is that I’ve walked on hot coals before. And I actually did this at my coliving space. I’m not an adventure risk taker. I’ve never skydived or bungee jumped or anything like that. But there was an event one night where there was an invitation to come learn how to walk on hot coals. And I was like, “No thanks, I’m gonna do my laundry instead.” But then I went and watched and I was like, “I’m gonna do it.” And I did it and it was amazing!
[00:30:09] Naima: wow. That’s definitely unique. Um, One more question to ask you Kat is what does living consciously mean to you?
[00:30:19] Kat: Mm, I love this question. To me, living consciously means living with intention and attention.
[00:30:29] Naima: Awesome. And finally, you already mentioned your website, but if you could just repeat your website and what are all the goodies that people can find on there?
[00:30:40] Kat: Yes. So my website is weshouldgettogether.com and there you can find that I have all kinds of tools for connection. So I have my books there if you wanna grab the eBooks. You can also get the [physical] books anywhere you buy books, you can walk in any bookstore you like and order We Should Get Together there. There’s a short addendum to that, like kind of the extra chapter, called Connected From Afar, which I released during the pandemic.
I have the Better Conversations Calendar, if you want conversation starters for every day of the year to help you break out of small talk. I have programs and courses and group programs that I’m doing all the time for people who want to find more friendship in adulthood and have more success at that.
So come on, check it out. As I mentioned, I also send a newsletter every two weeks, so you can subscribe for that there, if you’d like, it’s free. If you don’t like it, just subscribe whenever you want. I share tips and resources and take Q & A from subscribers as well. We’re all there for the same thing. Which is to help build a more connected, more friendship-filled world.
[00:31:42] Naima: Amazing. Well, thank you so much, Kat for this conversation. For the insights, for the tools, for everything you’re doing. Really appreciated. And, um, yeah. Thank you. Thank you.
[00:31:54] Kat: Thank you too Naima. Thank you for everything that you’re doing to raise awareness around conscious living and coliving. It’s really, honestly, I think one of the things that’s gonna help save our society — creating more intentional ways of living together and being together. And I think there’s gonna be an increase of coliving in the future. And I’m happy about that.
[00:32:20] Juan: Oh, what a great conversation. Thank you, Naima. And thank you Kat!.
Before we dive deeper into how this relates into community building and facilitation, I like to bring a bit of attention to a topic that got mentioned at the beginning of it. And that generally is not too talked about: loneliness.
And before I, I go into that, I just had a memory when we organized an event about loneliness in a coliving space in Berlin, back in 2000…
…And no one came.
[00:32:51] Naima: Oh my God. Yeah, I totally remember that. Uh, we definitely felt lonely there. haha. And uh, I do think it’s actually a reflection of this topic of loneliness being one that most people feel a certain resistance to.
[00:33:06] Juan: Indeed. So Kat mentioned how it’s spreading in USA, but we know that it’s actually a global challenge. So Naima, could you share some of the data from the research you’ve been doing on loneliness?
[00:33:20] Naima: Yeah, sure. So loneliness is now known to be one of the greatest public health challenges of our time. Indeed is often cited as being more harmful to our health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And according to a global survey, about 33% of adults around the world, experience feelings of loneliness.
Um, loneliness was actually considered a pandemic even before COVID 19. And several governments, including the UK have even appointed ministers of loneliness because of how serious of a concern it’s become. And just to offer a little bit more insight into why loneliness is. so harmful, um, is because it’s actually biological.
So as a species, humans have evolved to interact, to be social and collaborate and to trust each other in order to survive and to adapt. So loneliness would be an early warning system, kind of like a built in alarm that would send a biological signal to anyone who had somehow become separated from the group.
Now, today we might not be immediately at risk of death if we’re separated from our tribe, let’s say. But shockingly, actually many studies show that people with strong social connections have a 50% increased chance of longevity compared to those who are isolated or feel lonely.
Now, despite this research from the London school of economics shows and confirms what Juan and I experienced at that event in Berlin, where nobody came, uh, that people often refrain from talking about loneliness because it implies there’s something wrong with us, right?. Um, we feel ashamed or that we’re not cool, et cetera.
And so I’m really grateful to cat for being so open about her journey with loneliness. Um, and that is actually also a systemic issue because the more we talk about it, the more we can co-create solutions and approaches to reduce loneliness. For example, by enabling friendships to emerge through coliving.
[00:35:29] Juan: Yeah, we are social creatures that evolved living in groups that were based on trust and collaboration. You’re right.
Okay, now as promised we will bring attention to the insights of today’s conversation with Kat into a useful context, by focusing on the user experience and the resident’s journey. These are covered in section two of the Community Facilitation Handbook, around page 28 onwards. For those out that are listening. If you don’t have your copy yet, you can download it for free at ConsciousColiving.com.
The resident’s journey includes the following seven steps.
Before someone joins the community we have discovery and curation. Then once someone has decided to join a community comes onboarding, adaptation and communal life. And once the community member leaves: offboarding and afterlife.
So let’s focus on a few of this. What are the implications of this conversation today with Kat on onboarding and adaptation?
[00:36:26] Naima: Yeah. Thanks, Juan. Um, well, I’ll frame it in relation to what Kat said about the importance of planning for intentional connection. Because this kind of planning needs to start right from the beginning.
So for instance, what are the initial first few interactions that a new resident has when joining your community? What’s the onboarding process like and how does it support new community members to meet other people? These first interactions are really crucial as they set the tone for the adaptation and communal life phases.
So in the adaptation phase, it’s important to make sure that new residents are integrating well with the community culture and that feedback and communication channels are, are well maintained. This makes it much easier for relationships to be built early on as residents can more quickly feel comfortable in their new environment.
[00:37:21] Juan: Yeah. These phases are really critical in shaping the resident’s experience.
[00:37:25] Naima: Yeah. Yeah, they really are. Um, should I continue and expand onto the next one?
[00:37:29] Juan: Cool. Go for it.
[00:37:31] Naima: Okay. So communal life, this phase is all about the events, the activities, the community culture, and it’s really about where we wanna be supporting residents to interact, to have fun, to feed their curiosity and to grow both personally and professionally.
Um, and this is also the phase where the magic of community facilitation comes into play. So at the heart of community, facilitation is actually something quite deep and meaningful that needs to be achieved for any community to really thrive.
This is fostering trust, connection, and authentic relationships. Now events and activities are an important aspect of community facilitation. And ideally there’s a culture of co-creation between the residents and the coliving operator.
So residents feel empowered to suggest and organize events on their own and the operator or the community facilitator role is to really help make them happen. To, to help facilitate them into manifestation.
Um, Juan. What would you say are some of the main considerations for operators related to all this?
[00:38:42] Juan: Yeah, so I got three in mind right now.
So first one, the size of the events operators generally make large events for all the community and these ones are great as part of the mix. But also is very important to hold the question how to design interactions that supports the emergence of intimacy.
Secondly, frequency, which is one of Kat’s seed of connection. Frequency is very important to consider. For example, how often should these events and activities take place? And also, how often should the residents participate in them? A challenge for community members can be to find the balance of time alone and time with others. And this really comes to like really attending their own needs in terms of the introspection and extrovertion.
Thirdly, I really loved Kat’s last tip for coliving operators: to listen. Indeed, whatever events and activities are planned, they need to align with the resident’s needs and wants. And residents can also be encouraged to listen and understand each other as well. Let’s remember residents play an active role in successful community building.
[00:39:51] Naima: Yeah, definitely. Thanks for highlighting that. And one other consideration that residents might be asking themselves is why is it sometimes so hard to make friends when moving into a new place, into a new community? And so as a community member taking initiative can really help as well as being persistent in, in trying to make connections and friends.
So really not depending on the operator for everything, but, um, yeah, remembering the importance of accepting invitations, but also extending invitations to others.
[00:40:27] Juan: Yeah. And in relation to this out of the four challenges that Kat mentions, let’s expand a little bit more on one of them: difficulty establishing intimacy. Naima, could you share a few examples and approaches on how community facilitation can actually support this?.
[00:40:43] Naima: Yeah, sure. So one way is through sharing circles, which are safe spaces that allow people to drop all of their masks and just come and share authentically with whatever is alive in them.
These are one of the most powerful practices that I’ve seen for building vulnerability-based trust because the guidelines and the format of the circle really allow participants to, to get quite deep.
Um, another one is shared meals. Research from Oxford shows that the more people eat with others, the more happy and satisfied they feel with themselves and with their lives. And community activist Jeff Kozek also says that when the frequency gets up to four meals a week, then the social glue gets even stronger within a community.
And then of course, uh, another great way of creating intimacy and connection with others is by doing fun things together. Right? So playing games, having game nights, um, singing circles, dancing, doing music jamming, um, or also organizing going out on trips together. These are all great ways to, yeah, to create more connection.
[00:42:00] Juan: Yeah, I love that.
[00:42:01] Naima: Yeah, let’s have fun! Um, so Juan, we’re wrapping up, uh, this episode, but I wanted to reflect on one more thing.
[00:42:13] Juan: Okay. What have you got?
[00:42:15] Naima: All right. Well, you’ve done a lot of work in the field of business and team coaching, and you’ve shared many times in our conversations that the success of any organization, such as a living community is directly correlated to how the team, who is in charge of running operations actually functions.
So what are the implications of this episode’s conversation on this important aspect?
[00:42:42] Juan: Well yeah, team dynamics, such a crucial aspect for, yeah, for any organization.
Now, before I share about a particular model, an approach that I know is very, very effective, I like to point the audience to one of the most useful videos I know of. This video is essential for any team member and especially for any team leader.
Earlier, actually, I got curious and I took a second to look how many views it. If I combined TED.com views and the ones in his YouTube version, it has over 76 million views. So I guess I’m not the only one who think is very relevant. Uh, it’s a presentation by our dear Brene Brown, called the Power of Vulnerability. And if you haven’t watched it yet, make sure to look it up in the show notes.
And this is just to reinforce what has been one of the main topics and threats in today’s episode: the importance of trust.
So now going back to your question and how this relate to teams, I like to like share the, one of the most powerful frameworks there are for teams, uh, which is called the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team. To visualize in a very simple way imagine a pyramid.
At the base of the pyramid, we have vulnerability-based trust. So this is all about building high levels of this kind of trust, so that then we can move into the second part of the pyramid, which is conflict.
And here we’re talking about healthy conflict of ideas. If we can actually do that because we have the vulnerability to do that and the trust, then we can really set clear commitments. Commitments to each other, commitments to the team. And then we can move to the next level of pyramid, which is peer to peer accountability.
This is the kind that is not top down, but actually we can hold each other accountable to the things we have committed to. And then ultimately this allows for the top of the pyramid, which is team results.
Uh, that means everybody in the team is actually acting and behaving and, and taking action towards those team level results. I could on, on and on with this topic but I’m aware our listeners must be really feeling satisfied with all the content from this episode.
So I like to share with you a presentation by Patrick Lancioni [Five Dysfunctions of a Team], the founder of this model, that you will find in the show notes. Uh, make sure to take a look at that. And, uh, and if you have any questions on these, on how this can be applied to your teams, do get in touch.
[00:45:04] Naima: Great. Well, yeah. Thanks Juan so much for your insights into those five behaviors.
So this now officially wraps up this episode on fostering connection and friendship. I think a big takeaway is that however you’re doing or planning to do community facilitation in your own community, do not forget the focus on fostering intimacy, trust and vulnerability.
Because these are key elements, not only for building friendships, but they’re also what enables a community to thrive.
Thanks, Juan so much for joining me in this episode.
[00:45:45] Juan: Thank you Naima. It has been a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to the next one.
[00:45:50] Naima: In the next episode, we will explore the role of shared living in addressing the climate emergency with Tom Rivett-Carnac, author of the bestselling book The Future We Choose and co-host of the award-winning podcast, Outrage and Optimism.
See you all there!
Coliving Conversations (Season 1).
A co-production between Conscious Coliving and GoHumanGo!
Till the next episode.
What comes next in your coliving journey?
Join a Coliving Community
If you made it all the way to the bottom of these show notes, then coliving might be the next move for you. As has been noted, the benefits of coliving are many. These communities can be not only a lovely place to live, but also a great place to work.
If you are curious, then go ahead and find your coliving community.
Create & Optimise Coliving Communities
Whether you are a team member at a big real estate company, or part of a small start-up, innovating can feel overwhelming. Luckily, there are many passionate organisations and individuals here to support you, including us at Conscious Coliving and our partners. To begin with, make sure to explore existing coliving research and resources.