Stress Management Thoughts

SCARF Model in the times of Covid-19: RELATEDNESS

SCARF Model; Magda Tabac; Status; Certainty; Autonomy; Relatedness; Fairness

Note: this is the fifth post in the series dedicated to the benefits of applying the SCARF Model to increase our wellbeing (at home and at work) in these times of Covid-19. This post approaches the fourth SCARF “button”: Relatedness. The previous posts in the series are HERE (Introductory post), HERE (Status), HERE (Certainty) and HERE (Autonomy).

Relatedness – how safe we feel with others

The human brain is a truly social machine. This is why, the connection we feel to other people influences our decision making. Because we are designed to build groups that rely on mutual trust, our basic human instinct is to identify friend or foe. Furthermore, building trust is critical to becoming a friend.

When we connect with others, our brains release the hormone oxytocin (also known as the “love hormone” or “trust hormone”). The more oxytocin gets released, the more connected we feel. However, when connection is absent, the body generates a threat response (loneliness). Over time, this threat response decreases our ability to empathise with others.

The idea of relatedness is connected with two other concepts. The first is in-group preference: we have a bias towards those people who are similar to us, look and think like us. The second concept is out-group bias: we feel less empathy towards people who are dissimilar to us, who don’t look/think like us.

However, we can artificially create a sense of a group. For example if we work together on a project or assignment we will be able to create the sense of a group, even if any dissimilarity is present[i].

Covid negative impact on Relatedness:
  • The stay-at-home recommendations increase significantly the threat of social isolation.
  • If we are going through a tough time due to the lockdown, we might feel that it’s only us going through such emotions. Therefore, it is very probable that we will think others do not understand us or they think we are weak.
Ideas for increasing Relatedness:
  • Use video for virtual meetings. The use of nonverbal communication helps limit the potential for miscommunication and increases the feeling of connection.
  • Use language such as “we” and “us” to promote the feeling of belonging. Language such as “you”, “me” and “they” signals a clear boundary between groups.
  • Schedule regular 1:1s with each team member, as well as team meetings where everyone has a chance to connect on something informal before you dive in to work.
  • Look out for colleagues who might be more isolated in their work. Connect with them more regularly.
  • Schedule virtual happy hours or lunches or any other activities that allow a team to socialize for a bit outside of work. Do the same with your friends or family.
  • Increase the connectedness and improve relationships with peers who can relate to what we’re going through: set up weekly coffee or drinks dates with your friends over Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp video, etc.
  • Pick up the phone and call friends and family

I’d be interested in hearing your examples of how the pandemic has pushed your “Relatedness button” and any ideas you have for increasing Relatedness. So please share.

Thank you for reading,


PS – You can access the other articles in the series here: Status Certainty Autonomy Fairness

[i] Rock, D. (2008) SCARF: A brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others, Neuroleadership Journal, 1

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I usually write about Process Communication Model and Neuroscience, and how they can help us in our day-to-day life.

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