I remember one of the early experiences of leadership retreats that I participated in. It was during the mid 1990s, in the era of The Berkana Institute Dialogues that were led by Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner Rogers. Many of us were in a thick conversation about what people need. It was a values conversation. It was a yearnings and longings conversation. I remember that I was starting to lose my ability to track the conversation, to hold to the essence. And then a man spoke what I remember feeling as a voice of clarity and as a voice of relief. He was sharing an essence — I don’t know if it was something already in him or if it was something that arose from the moment. “All humans desire to be loved.”
Sweet clarity spoken from an honest heart.
I remember another experience of leadership dialogue. This was toward the late 1990s, in an expanded web of people that shared affinity for Berkana and for such conversations about yearnings, longings, and practice. I remember Peggy Holman in this one, who became a loved colleague and friend. Peggy was an important contributor to the Open Space community of practitioners. She was deeply involved in convening journalists together to reimagine responsible journalism. And Peggy was prolific thinker and writer — The Change Handbook, and later, Engaging Emergence. Again, it was a conversation seeking to find what lives in the heart, shared by peoples everywhere. Peggy said, “All humans wish to be heard, seen, and loved.”
Again, sweet clarity.
This morning my waking and wondering self followed a similar path while I was thinking about a few projects that I’m connected to, and while I was thinking about a few people who are similarly wondering. All humans, it seems to me, wish three things — belonging, safety, and accomplishment.
Let me nuance just a bit.
All humans wish belonging. For me, this includes being accepted fundamentally as who we are, be it in the external qualities or in the essence of internal qualities. All humans wish welcome. All humans wish community, large or small, to affirm belonging so that both the center of the belonging can be strengthened, and, so that the edges of the belonging can be evolved with an underlying appreciation and acceptance. All humans wish belonging.
All humans wish safety. For me, I’m thinking more at the layer of Abraham Maslow’s famous framing, hierarchy of needs. I’m thinking physical and emotional safety, spiritual too. Reliable shelter. Food. Water. Means to engage with others regarding their physical safety. Emotional safety for me means access to a clear heart that isn’t lost in fear, or fallen from fear’s steep and slippery slope. It means space and support amidst harsh deceptions that can come from the fear of direct experience or inherited survival experiences. All humans wish safety.
All humans wish accomplishment. For me, this is contribution. Be that from a solo orientation or from a team or communal orientation. It means participation. It means sometimes leading out on things or on big ideas. It means sometimes offering support and busy hands and feet to help accomplish small but necessary steps of bigger works being led by others. Humans wish to fulfill purposes that speak to the needs of community, and to the needs a single heart of a person. All humans wish accomplishment.
To be loved.
Heard, seen, loved.
Belonging, safety, accomplishment.
A little further in learning, the kind of learning that is more available to me with a few added years lived, is that though we humans, all humans, seek such essences, there is profound work and practice to be done by starting with self. There is profound work and practice in the doing, and sometimes in the undoing, of these inner vessels that seek to catch and be nourished by healing waters.
Yup. A big yes to those recognizing and hunching their way forward with a few steps of starting with self. And, simultaneously, a big yes, to those offering these “All Humans” qualities with others, seeking to live, give, and practice the very same things that we seek in the deepest parts of ourselves.
Gonna follow this one for a while. Feels alive in the ways that I, and so many of us, seek to get to what is at the heart of it all in working with groups.