How a couple, family or community communicates and works to overcome their shared challenges requires a collective commitment to mutual respect. Usually, through love and respect, a solid starting point exists for families to engage in the hard conversations. A respectful point, at which to start, is especially important when dealing with the most difficult issues. The bond of family gives members the strength to talk through tough issues together. Individual members of communities can create powerful bonds too – with the right glue.
Nature sometimes provides a handy reference point to help us understand truth about ourselves. The world of microbiology and the tiny proteins existing there can teach us a helpful principle about collaborative bonds.
Proteins are structures that are groups of other microbiological components (we won’t get into that here) held together by “bonds” – think of how the muscles and tendons combine to hold our skeleton in place. What is interesting about bonds in proteins is a particular property they exhibit that correlates quite well to how individuals and groups “take a stand” in collaborative problem solving.
In describing some properties of proteins, scientists use a term called avidity. It describes the combined strength of multiple protein bond interactions. Avidity is distinct from affinity, which is a term used to describe the strength of a single bond. By comparison, avidity is a truly special property that describes the fact that there is actually combined synergistic strength of bond affinities which are stronger than simply the sum of individual bonds.
Yes, you heard that right and it’s amazing. Avidity describes something that basically mimics what is required among people who visit my practice and are called upon to solve problems: working together makes for effective system wide change. In the seemingly off-topic world of proteins there is evidence that we are stronger together than apart.
In countless family and/or community situations we may start thinking that our way of seeing a problem is the only way and we might not listen to how someone else feels or what their perspective is. Proteins and how they are structured serve as a great reminder that there is MORE STRENGTH in our collective bonds than in the separate strength of each individual. When we reach out to hear and understand others we are not surrendering individual needs, we are creating a bond that transcends all of us and raises us all up to a better and healthier place.
It may be that collaborative problem solving is the starting point for community avidity because it promotes the desire for shared understanding, progress towards a common goal and mutual respect.
To Do: Listen to someone this week (in person or through media) and show respect for the differences between your points of view. Take note of how you were able to show respect for another person without losing your self-respect.
Dawna Daigneault, ED.S., LPC.
Better By Monday is a blog about one thing you can try, over the weekend, to feel a little better by Monday.