In his biography of Ulysses Grant, Ron Chernow describes the surrender discussions between Grant and Lee at Appomattox Court House. At one point, Lee took note of Grant’s aide, a Seneca Indian, Ely Parker. Shaking Parker’s hand, Lee said, “I’m glad to see one real American here.” Parker replied, “We are all Americans.” Parker’s comment is an example of the coping strategy of linkage between people. When people are linked, connected, they are more likely to engage in teamwork, more likely to trust one another, and more likely to put a group goal ahead of individual needs.
Cooper works in the Human Resource Management division of his company. This division consists of 23 employees, and every September the director of the division takes the entire office on a one-day retreat. They assemble at 7am at an isolated recreational and meeting facility in the country. They plan the day’s activities, which consist of both outdoor games and indoor group discussions; all of it is designed to link employees together in a bond of trust, shared identity, and common purpose. They divide into three small groups for the morning activities. After lunch, the entire division assembles for a two-hour discussion of what they discovered in the morning session, and how they could increase productivity on the job by working with each other.
Here are some comments from one retreat:
“Sharing my ideas with others, and hearing their ideas, helped me learn a lot about the company and how each worker could contribute to production.”
“Getting together like that and having others actually listen to my ideas gave me a sense of ownership, that I really was appreciated.”
“I found it was OK to laugh, and talk, and share. The bosses really did want to hear what we had to say. It said a lot about how they valued the workers. It seemed to make most of us more committed to the company.”
“I felt a sense of belonging because there was a bond of trust and respect.”
Always remember that when evaluating your place in a group, you are not the primary factor in the equation; it’s not all about you, and others must be given their place. Equally important, keep in mind that others remember you for how you make them feel. Make them feel worthwhile and important in your life, and they will be there for you. These attitudes foster linkage with others, and it is essential for good coping. When troubled with stress and anxiety, don’t always try and work it through on your own. Sometimes that works, but there’s no doubt that a reliable and trustworthy support group can provide inspiration, confidence, and a sense of purpose.