The 2023 posts here have focused on how you can create an environment of belonging for others. What about your accountability for creating your own sense of belonging?
I sing with a community choir, and at the last two rehearsals the director announced that all are welcome to join at the local pub after singing. I sing with these people but I don’t really know them beyond music conversations. I wanted to go, and I didn’t want to go. Do you know that feeling? What I really wanted was for someone to individually invite me and make me feel like part of the group. When I got home last night (after not going to the pub) I thought, “I’m surely not the only one feeling this way; why didn’t I just do the inviting?”
Next time I am going to do the inviting because belonging is a two-way street.
Some actions that we can take on our own behalf:
- Manage up/lift up. Managing or lifting others up is not sucking up. Lifting up means looking for the good in others and pointing it out. It matters in gaining patients’ trust, e.g. “Your next shift nurse is Jonas, and you are in luck! He’s been here 20 years and has a lot of experience caring for patients with your condition.” It matters with peers too, as we become known as someone who sees and expresses the good. Lifting others up lifts us up too. I was actually writing this paragraph when I received an email from a co-worker who said she needed a lift so she decided to lift others up too. She wrote:
Some days are just because days – today is one of those days.
If you feel your desk needs a flower – take one from the kitchen (or two).
If you feel you need a piece of chocolate – on the table in the kitchen.
If you feel you need a Klondike bar - in the freezer.
Who wouldn’t be lifted by that?**
- Ask for what you want and need. We not only don’t ask, sometimes we don’t even stop to understand what it is that is missing. One good way to discern what you want or need is to consider the things you tend to complain about. Feeling unappreciated? Ask for how you’d like to be recognized. Feeling left out? Ask if you can join. Feeling frustrated? Consider what has been left unsaid and find a way to say it. Too often we either passively wish that others would just know what we need and then are disappointed because they don’t know, or aggressively demand and spark anger. Speaking up for our needs can feel risky, but like Mick Jagger sings, “You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes, you get what you need.” He also sang that you have to try. Speaking of trying…
- Step out of your own echo chamber. Do you avoid people who see things differently than you? In this divisive world we are living in we tend to put people in categories of “like me” or “not like me” and dismiss the latter. But one way or another, almost everyone is in some way just like me: wants to belong, be right, do well, feel good, enjoy life, be safe, successfully contribute, learn, etc. Try reaching out to someone you might otherwise ignore. Invite dialogue and you’ll not only spark belonging, you will also start to mend the divide.
- QTIP. Part of taking accountability for our own belonging requires that we work at QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally. When I invite a fellow singer to the pub next rehearsal they may say no. I will tell myself that it’s not personal and invite someone else. Much suffering that accompanies the feeling of not belonging is a result of stories we tell in our heads. These false narratives leave us taking things personally that are likely not about us at all.
- Let go. We get to decide how hard we are willing to try with people. Most people will meet us halfway when we work at connecting, but some can’t or won’t. Remember you have a choice in how much energy you invest in the work of a relationship. That person who, no matter how hard you try, they give you nothing back? Make a conscious decision about whether or not you continue to try and don’t let it zap your energy.
**Some people will choose not to respond to connecting even if it involves ice cream. First on the list of what we cannot control is other people. What we DO have control over is our own attitude and behavior, and we’re more ready to connect from that place of empowerment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
|In Jo Anne's current role as Organizational and Workforce Development Senior Manager at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC) her aim is to offer to leaders straightforward tools and inspire the courage to use them.
Lead the Way in Five Minutes A Day: Sparking High Performance in Yourself and Your Team, by Jo Anne Preston is currently available for purchase.