In 2021, I had the opportunity to meet the renowned political scientist, Robert Putnam, and his brilliant writing partner, Shaylyn Romney Garrett. They had just published their well-researched book, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again.
The book begins with a depiction of the United States as a place where self-centered individualism prevails with widespread corruption and unrest, distrust of one another, political scandal, and destruction of the environment. Sadly, to the reader, it seems that Putnam and Romney Garrett are describing a day in America as we currently know it. However, that is not the case – they were describing the late 1800s during the Gilded Age. The two go on to describe how our country changed its ways and gradually, but surely, moved from an “I” society to a “we” society marked by “a more egalitarian, cooperative, cohesive and altruistic” disposition.
In relationship building, I have long said that the best networkers are those who go in with a “how can I help you?” attitude vs. “what have you done for me lately?” By focusing on the other, by promoting a “we over me” approach, not only do we address the needs of those around us, but our own needs are also ultimately addressed as we support one another.
Consider these ideas for advancing the “we”:
- Share the work. Roll up your sleeves, jump in. Allow others to contribute, too.
- Share the airtime. Give everyone an opportunity to participate and to shine.
- Share the wins. When things go well, allow everyone on the team to enjoy the spoils of their effort.
So, of course, take care of your own needs… but remember there is power in focusing on “we over me.” Be sure to support one another, foster community, and bring people together.