Belonging – 5-8min

The goal of this exercise is to bring you closer to understanding what you already know and practice about cultivating psychological safety. To learn more about psychological safety and why it’s important, you can check out my blog post about Google’s research on the topic–click here.

This learning tool is called interactional moment analysis. The theory behind this approach is that big macro patterns–in relationships, groups and organisations–can actually be made much more visible and tangible by zeroing in on tiny moments. Similarly, we can shift and counteract problematic patterns by focusing on building healthier micro-moments. Interactional moment analysis is useful when we’re trying to grasp big and fluid concepts.

This exercise uses a personal memory to elicit common experiences and principles. So, I’ll be asking you to dig into your own experience of joining groups–this can be a memory from any part of your life.

As always, there’s no way to “get it wrong”. I hope you enjoy this!


Materials: You’ll need a pen and paper.

  1. Take a moment to remember a time from your own life when it was made clear to you that you did not belong in a situation. It could be an experience of trying to join an activity or process, being an unexpected (and unwelcome) visitor to someone’s home in a tense familial moment, or maybe accidentally interrupting a private conversation at a gathering.

2. Don’t judge your moment! Any moment of not-belonging is valid in this exercise.

3. Take a moment and jot down five non-verbal ways in which you were shown you did not quite belong in this situation. Think about…

  • Were there specific gestures present or missing that showed you were unwelcome?
  • Even if the people or person verbally welcomed you, what was it in their body language or tone that showed you your out-of-place-ness?
  • What was the tone of the moment? How would you describe it?
  • How did you feel in your body? What emotions did you have? What was your first instinct in response?
  • What was happening with the eye contact in the situation?

4. Your list is an examples of practices that harm relational quality. Take a moment to think: are there ways in which your organisation or team–without any ill will–replicates these practices?

5. Remembering the feelings you had in that moment, imagine trying to bring a risky, vulnerable or unusual idea or proposition into a work setting with those same feelings in your body. What do you notice about your ability to bring this idea forward?