Are You Lost in a Social Desert?

If you were lost in a desert, baking under the blazing sun, walking directionless for miles, you’d quickly realize that you need water…. Wouldn’t you?

Sounds like an easy scenario to answer. But, sometimes you get so far removed from what you actually need and so used to a lack of it that it could slip your mind.

You could get so disoriented and so confused that you might not even realize you’re still stuck in the desert.

Is this happening in your relationships?

Has authentic relating and a true connection become so rare that you’ve forgotten to look for it?

Could you possibly be entranced into accepting a mediocre level of connection?

We all as humans have fundamental needs- air, food, and water. But we also have specific social needs.

We need to belong. We need to work in teams to survive and we need to feel recognized, respected, and understood.

We’re losing this art of relating to each other authentically.

Whether you are supported by a rich community that nurtures the best parts of you and helps you to grow and succeed, or if you are feeling isolated — sometimes lonely — wandering through a relational desert, creating more authentic relationships in your company, your career, and your life can boost the quality of your work and your life.

Conversation Quality Matters

Whether you’re building a connection, building community, or building company culture, one of the best ways to determine the quality of any of those things is to look at the quality of the conversations happening.

Conversation quality is a proxy for the quality of connection, community, and culture. There are low-quality conversations and there are much higher quality conversations.

Factors that play into low-quality conversations:


Commonly in business culture, conversations are occurring so quickly that people can’t include themselves in the conversation. It’s all about prioritizing content and solving things over anything else.

Lack of presence

Most of these conversations are centered around the past or the future– hardly ever focused on the present moment. There are a ton of unknowns, assumptions, and projections that are slipping into conversations that perpetuate Drama and hinder the quality of the conversation.

Talking for too long

Have you ever listened to someone talk for four-minute and repeat themselves three times? And you find yourself tuning out creating a mental grocery list for the week? Or someone is talking for so long that you start to zone out and start to figure out what you want to say next, which is radically different from active listening? Drawn out conversations can reduce their impact and social effect.

Ways to Boost Effective Communication and Authentic Relating

Sentence stems are a powerful way you can bring authentic relating skills into the workplace. The beauty and simplicity of sentence stems is that they can take anywhere from a minute to as long as you’d like them to take. You can use sentence stems in any form of time commitment to get your team connected to themselves, the moment, and each other. No matter what your job is or what your relationships are like or what your community is like, you can use them.

Examples of sentence stem applications:

Pulse checks

A pulse check is a sentence stem starter in response to an idea, concept, result, thought, or projection. During a meeting or check-in, invite your team to share what they think in response to something specific.

“When I look at what’s on the screen, I feel _______.”

“When I read that number, I feel ________.”

Your team members and collaborators might respond with one word or a long response.

The whole point is engaging your team and getting an accurate and authentic response, with no shame, blame, or judgment.

Checking for Impact

You’re a leader and you just announced something and you just brought new information in. Or you just brought news that creates a change. After an announcement of some sort, if you simply roll on as if nothing happened, you’re going to lose focus and attention.

Instead of carrying on, take a moment to check for impact within your team. Make your announcement and invite those around you to share how this is impacting them.

You could do a couple of rounds of this.

One could be, “Here’s what I heard and what stood out to me…” as pure reflection without commentary.

Then you can have people pair up and invite them to share for a minute what is coming up for them after the announcement. It’s private, and judgment-free, they can say whatever they want. Then you can reunite the team and ask what the impact of hearing your announcement is. And you gain a lot of information about where people are at with what was said.

The 4 Types of Conversations

In the authentic relating framework, there are four kinds of conversations you can have:

The difference between a relational conversation and the others is that a relational conversation is about what’s happening right now. Me right now in me, within you, or between us.

I have my experience. You’re having your experience over there. We’re in a conversation and when we put our attention on what’s happening internally AND between us, the conversation can become more high-value socially.

Have you ever felt drained by a conversation where it felt like someone was just talking at you, not with you?

In a relational conversation, you feel ALIVE. You are aware of yourself and what’s happening within and around you, and also connecting to another person who is experiencing their inner world. Here you stay connected with yourself and stay connected with someone else.

This capacity to be connected with you and connected with someone else at the same time, present in the moment is a muscle to be developed and trained. Authentic relating skills and processes are centered around this connection. Using them liberally in team and culture building creates an awareness that promotes a culture of authentic relating.

When someone says the classic throw-away greeting in our culture, “Hey, how are you?” you are presented with an opportunity to authentically relate.

You can share one thing that is happening for you, and get real in the moment. And you can offer that opportunity forward by asking, with genuine curiosity, how they are.

In that quick minute, you can have a richer, more 3D conversation.

You can get out of the relational desert and encourage authentic relating within your team and company by leading by example and living these concepts.

Learn more about authentic relating!



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Caneel Joyce

Transformational executive coach to founders & CEOs of fast-growth companies. Mom, wife, speaker, former professor & startupper., The Allowed Podcast