Are you looking for innovative ideas to build deeper relationships at work and home? Here is a real simple one that you can do with potentially powerful results.

I tried it out this year at a big family Christmas party at our home. We planned for twenty-four people, which is about ten too many for our home. Kristen and I were a little nervous because the food details were not coming together all that well: the pork loin was finished cooking an hour early and two side dishes were about forty-five minutes late. Not only that but the wine glasses did not match. It looked like a bad start.

In the end, as we nearly had to get out the vacuum cleaner to clear out the party. Several told us it was one of “the best Christmas parties” our family ever had.

What made it one of the best-ever parties? What did we do differently this year? I invited everyone to come with an inspirational story from their personal life and to consider sharing it. Simple but not easy to do. We lit a bunch of candles, had a bit of music and gathered in a circle around a big bowl with one candle in it. I facilitated.

I began with a very personal story based on a dream I had. It was well-received. About 14 others stood up, lit their own candle and shared from their hearts. There were a lot of laughs and plenty of tears. What an amazing experience it was!

What made it special? Personal vulnerability and a “container” to hold it. The container in this case was the lovely physical space, the group, a skilled facilitator and clarity of purpose. This party was not about having the perfect pork loin or wine glasses that matched. It was about interpersonal connections that opened our hearts in a new way. And it worked!

Could you do something like this that would build stronger connections? I know many of you work in places where people are cautious, so you must find the right question. Could you, at the right meeting, ask for people to share something personal or inspirational? Maybe just a favorite memory, or something they are looking forward to doing in 2017. I bet with some support you could. Don’t forget the importance of a solid container. It just might create a new level of relationship that allows a transformative break though.

Be in touch and please share your experiments with me.

Tom Esch