Rituals - Understanding the Things that Connect Us!

Often, when I am doing presentations on relationships and social capital, I frame the process in 4 interconnected steps.  The start point is to bridge similarities, but when we find settings where people gather who have similar interests as us, we need to come to understand the rituals that drive the group.

Rituals are deep-rooted behaviors that the community holds as important. They are behaviors that have become so established in the culture that people hardly recognize them when they occur. But they do recognize when a member of the community does not follow them. They can be formal or informal, but they matter to the members, and they signal a connectedness or similarity with the other members when they occur.

Think about the various communities in your life, like work, or church, or even with your family. There are expected behaviors that have come to be developed in that community that people follow or engage in. When you first started to work at your present situation, probably someone oriented you to the company and job. In this process, they were teaching you the rituals of the setting. In a way this orientation is to help assure your success in the new setting, and knowing, then following the rituals help set the stage for cultural success.

A perfect setting to get familiar with rituals is at church. Even if you are not a regular church-goer, you can understand how ritualistic church services are. In my experience, from the holy water and first sign of the cross, to the standing, kneeling, sitting, and singing, all the members follow and manifest the rituals.

The key thing about rituals, however, is that they really signal elements of similarity with the other members. They continue to reinforce the bridge between people that are fundamental to relationship building.

So the next time you are at a regular community (family events, work settings, clubs, groups, or associations), stay cognizant of the rituals. Try to identify them, and realize the role they play in connecting us to others.