cover art of podcast episode on how to find and build relationships that support you

Thank you for listening to this episode of Changes, Big and Small. This is your host. Damianne Changes Big and Small will help you take action in your life with intention and purpose. In each episode, I invite you to accept unexpected challenges that will help you make progress to live the life that you want.

This episode focuses on how to build relationships.

I’ve been watching the Korean drama Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha after a colleague recommended it. I decided to give it a try because I usually watch thrillers and watching something different would be relaxing for me.

Relationships in Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha

In Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, we see all the different types of relationships: work, family, friends, acquaintances, romantic. Relationships grow in each of these situations when people spend time with each other when they are vulnerable and caring. The location of the show, Gonjin, is a small seaside town where gossipping and interfering in other people’s lives is practically sport. What stood out to me was the sense of community. People came together to pay their respects for a death, a death anniversary, an engagement. People came together. One thing comes across clearly, that there is value in community relationships as well as in more intimate relationships between individuals. The community supports the well-being of each person.

Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha shows many of the ideas about relationships and building relationships that Kenny Mammarella shared in our interview. For example, relationships grow as people spend time together.

Meeting at the Edge

Living the life you want, building relationship that fulfill you, involves meeting yourself and others at the edge, at the edge of your comfort level, where you can reveal yourself to another and be accepted and supported.

Play bigger than the rules because it’s not play small to be liked and to be part of the pecking order or to not be excluded. It’s play big enough so you actually get met at the edge, and that’s where the growing is. That’s where the learning is. That’s where we really meet rather than surviving and being nice and second guessing.

Kenny Mammarella

It’s also beautiful that we have the capacity to recognize when someone else is hurting and support them, leaving space for them to share what they will. Sometimes the edge can be too much and we have to pull ourselves back or count on someone else to help us pull back.

Choosing our Actions and Reactions

One of the things that makes relationships difficult is that we have many choices to decide how to act or react. In the groups that Kenny facilitates, one of the rules is to play bigger than the rules. I think that this means showing up with an open heart, an open mind, with your whole self, whoever you are. It means remaining true to yourself and your values, not just going with the crowd or what another wants to hear. Another way of thinking about this is to not just watch, but also participate.

You have to participate if you want to build connections, if you want to develop relationships and maintain them. Through connections, you create a safe space for you to be able to experience the joys of life and also the pain. Cultivate relationships where you can be held when you hurt and celebrated when you have a success. If you are in relationships where you can only do one of them, what will it take to create space for the other? This is possible in all our different types of relationships.

Being held at work can be different than in family. At work, it may mean getting help to complete work, getting accommodations or time off, a bouquet of flowers, and words of empathy or consolation. It may also mean a hug, a pat on the back, a squeeze of a shoulder or hand. What is appropriate depends on the relationship you have with a person. Unwanted physical touch, for example, can add to pain and discomfort.

Even in family, being held may look different. Some families have more physical touch than others. Being held in this context could mean someone sitting with you or it could mean a hug. It’s whatever helps you feel supported, that makes space for you to feel however you’re feeling, allowing you to go through the feelings to whatever comes next at your own pace.

Rumi says that the wound is where the light comes in. To me, this means that pain and other emotions that we consider negative is how we gain something positive.

How to Build More Connections and Relationships

I think the most important thing for finding spaces of support, where you can support other people and be supported, is to be yourself. If you haven’t figured out who you are yet, it’ll be very hard for people to give you what you need. They may try but you’ll have a hard time receiving something that you don’t think you need. So go back to seasons 2 and 3 on clarity and self-acceptance to do that work. You can get involved in community and build relationships while learning about yourself, but expect your relationships to change as you change and grow.

Kenny said:

I want to include myself in all my relationships. And I want to be around people who have similar values, similar purpose, maybe similar morals, maybe if not a similar background, at least a similar flavor. So by coming from a similar place and also who bring out the best in me and that’s important.

Kenny Mammarella

I want to expand on that a bit. With what you know of yourself, find or create a group where you can have the connections that you want more of in your life. You don’t have to match with someone on all the components Kenny pointed out but you do need one point of similarity, of shared interest.

At work, there are several groups for “life chats”, where people talk about stuff besides work. During the pandemic, when I had many less spontaneous meetings in my day-to-day life, I joined some of those groups. Every few weeks, I am paired with a new person where we can talk about whatever we want. The best conversations are the ones where we can find a point of connection and open up to each other.

For me, I created a book club to spend more time with people that I care about. My family has been having family get-togethers on Zoom. We’re spread out around the world but rarely did this previously. At work, I participate in social chats as well as more professional chats, and we talk about our lives.

Showing Up as Your Whole Self

In one of the upcoming episodes, we’ll be discussing life. Some people differentiate between personal and professional life but we only have one life. How do we live our life fully and stop trying to cut ourselves into halves? I’ll be exploring this topic. For me, I want to show up authentically in all the places that I inhabit. I don’t share the same things with people at work as I do with my friends but I’m always the same person. My behavior in one place shouldn’t shock people from the other place. I’m always Damianne.

I’m a very curious, sometimes sarcastic person, who likes time to think alone before discussing with others. I love words and stories and can sometimes be too critical about language and writing. My perspective is that people are primarily good. I watch from a distance rather than participating sometimes. Baking relaxes me but I rarely do it anymore since I don’t have an office to bring baked goods into. I love travelling but am less adventurous than before, now preferring to travel with other people than alone. I could go on but you get the picture of what I’m doing here.

I’d like to invite you to do the same. Who are you? What do you value? What do you want more of in your life? Start here, and then invite other people into your sphere.

Tips to Build Relationships

To build any relationship, you need one point of shared interest. The more points of interest you share with someone, the closer your friendship will be.

I’ve lived in many countries around the globe and in each place, I’ve made friends. I don’t have a lot of friends, but there are people in my life that I will get on a flight to go to if they ever need my help. I’ve met a lot of my friends at work. Some of my colleagues at work are just that, but some have become friends over the years. We’ll be exploring how to create friendships in a future episode, but I can give you a preview. If you want to build a strong friendship or any time of relationship, it’s important to spend time together, and to have deep conversations. Small talk has its place but it doesn’t build strong relationships.

Kenny shared three invitations for strong relationships, and there is actually a fourth one as well.

  • reflective listening
  • be in the question “I wonder…”
  • Folllow your heart and live your truth
  • descriptive praise (give energy with what you want to grow)

Reflective listening

Reflective listening shows that you’re paying attention. When someone is in the moment with you, paraphrasing what you are saying and confirming they understood, how does that make you feel? I find this such an attractive quality. I can remember the first time I experienced this. It threw me. I wondered what the person was doing, if they were trying to trick me in some way. Reflective listening can involve body language or verbal language.
To show that you’re listening attentively, make eye contact, remove distractions, take notes, make sure that you’re in a state of mind for listening, and that you have enough time for the conversation. To show that you’re paying attention, you can use phrases like:

  • “What I’m hearing is …”
  • “I want to make sure that I understand what you’re saying …”

You could reflect the emotion, content, or meaning with paraphrasing, or you could summarize.

Be In the Question

Be curious and open with “I wonder”. I love this. It also came up in a previous episode I did with Mark Butler on money. “I wonder” can be fun and playful, which actually supports creativity. Coming from here lets you explore new perspectives, new solutions. It removes judgment to allow you to go outside of your usual response.

Follow your heart and live your truth

This is a difficult one because many of us have tuned out of our intuition. We stay in our heads and out of our bodies. Diana Chapman talks about how you can feel your reaction to things in your body, the somatic response, and you can visit her site for a meditation to help you identify this feeling.

I tend to be more of a heart person, but I’ve been trained, like all of us have, into the intellectual. So I tend to be kind of in my upper part of my body, either in my feelings and I feel a lot and I cry and emote a lot. I was a very kind of melancholy teenager, moody, or I try and figure it out in my head. So I’ve gotten very good at that, but it’s harder for me to go into my belly and it it’s harder for us in general in the West as a culture to go into our belly and gut sense of knowing things, our intuition. That’s why I encourage people to, when they meditate on the breath, to try and feel the breath in the belly.

Sebene Selassie

You can go back and listen to the full interview with Sebene Selassie for some ideas about how to connect with your other ways of knowing besides the brain. This is something that I’m working on, to slow down and pause and see how my body feels, giving it space and time to inform decisions.

Give descriptive praise

There is a lot of research on this with respect to child development. Descriptive praise tells someone what specifically they’ve done. It’s a way of celebrating someone’s actions and results without personalization, leaving space for them to recognize the value of their actions. This means it’s not about being a good person, but rather about acting in a particular way. Instead of saying “good job”, you might say “Team members have mentioned that you met all the milestones for this project and communicated clearly with them at every step of the way”. With children, you might say “I noticed that you put away all your toys by yourself without waiting for me to tell you today. I can see that you’re really proud of yourself”.


I leave you with the invitation to write down who are you and then use that to determine which communities you want to join or create. Also, if there are any relationships that you want to strengthen, you can use the four tips that Kenny shared. Start with practicing one of them each day for a week. Then add on another one, continuing like this as long as it’s interesting, energizing or rewarding for you to do so. The goal is to build a new habit, and that happens most successfully if you are truly engaged in the action and its impact. My final thought for today is that all healthy relationships have value and help make life better, not just romantic relationships. If you’ve been stuck only seeking one type of relationship, perhaps it’s time to open up to more possibilities.

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

Listen now

Enjoyed this episode? Please click this link to rate the podcast.

Quick Links

More on Relationships


About the Author
I'm a curious problem solver.

1 comment on “How to Find and Build Relationships that Support You

  1. Chrissie says:

    I listened to this podcast last night and really appreciated it. I particularly appreciated the simple yet profound part:

    > think the most important thing for finding spaces of support, where you can support other people and be supported, is to be yourself. If you haven’t figured out who you are yet, it’ll be very hard for people to give you what you need.

    The tips on showing engagement in a conversation were also inspiring. Thanks for taking the time to share all that with all of us. Love your podcast!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: