By Marge Smith
Community Works now has a blog with tips and techniques that will enable each of us to be more effective in accomplishing our important missions. Creating a climate of inclusion begins from the beginning of a meeting or gathering. There are three simple things you can do.
- Provide name tags. When individuals walk into a meeting, does someone greet them and provide a name tag? Individuals who say “But we don’t need name tags” are favoring themselves and making it more difficult for the newcomer.
- Post instructions to sit next to someone you don’t know or don’t know well. It is natural for individuals to sit next to someone they know; indeed, it would appear rude if a person walked in with a friend and went to the other side of the room. However, you can immediately create a more inclusive climate by at every meeting having people sit next to a different person. That can help prevent cliques of “old versus new” occurring. Also, it has been demonstrated that by just sitting next to someone you feel more connected and frequently a conversation occurs.
- Cross introductions: introducing the other person to the group. Unfortunately, at so many meetings, people go around and introduce themselves; this is truly a missed opportunity to connect individuals and build respect and inclusion. And who do you really learn about? Yourself! That’s because as individuals take turns speaking, you tend to be thinking what you are going to say and have not really “heard” all of the others. Therefore, the next step when people are sitting next to someone they don’t know is to have them talk to that person and find out something to report, depending on your agenda and the stage of the group.These “cross introductions” could range from finding out a little about the person, to what they would like the group to accomplish this year, something they have seen happen because this organization exists, why they are committed, a skill they bring, or ways to recruit more volunteers.
Why does the process of cross introductions work?
- It enables each person to speak.
- It creates a climate of respect. In order to introduce the other person, individuals must listen and summarize. Thus, each person is heard.
- For a shy, quiet or new person, it feels safer to talk one on one. Also, it is easier to speak about someone else or present their idea rather than oneself or one’s own idea.
- It prevents one individual from dominating the conversation.
If at some time during the meeting, you use this technique of introducing the other person or their idea, and you combine it with sitting next to someone they don’t know well, you will start building a group of individuals who will feel included and respected.
Please let me know when you have tried this and what question you used. I wish you well.