Sunday, July 6, 2014

For the Extroverts & Introverts: How to be a welcoming group of people

I am definitely an extrovert. Watch me with a group of people and there is no doubt about it. But I have gained some introvertedness since becoming a mom. (Perhaps this stems from the fact that I can never be alone? I can’t even go to the bathroom in peace after the kids go to bed. The cat LOUDLY insists on being with me.) And maybe it’s that blend of extro-intro, combined with my passion for understanding personality types/learning styles/love languages/spiritual gifts—shall we just say people? that makes me very sensitive to how other people are connecting in social settings.

For the past year and a half I’ve been a part of a great group of ladies make up my mom’s group. They have become dear, sweet friends who share my heart. We can be honest and real with one another, support each other through difficulties and find plenty of cause for celebration. We have sweated through zumba and done some awkward yoga stretches together. I feel like we’ve done a good job of reaching out to new moms and drawn them in quickly. But even then, I had a reminder last week of what it feels like to be an outsider. The kids and I were having a terrible, horrible, no good very bad morning, followed by being late. I just felt off and eventually the kids and I left because Jace’s ice had the audacity to melt in his water. But what my park day reminded me of was how each person in a group greatly affects the health and outreach of a group. And the entire responsibility of your outward reaching should not be fall on the leader.

Here are a few things I think all members of a group should be mindful of:

Newcomers Regardless of how long you’ve been a part of the group, if you don’t know the person who just walked in the room, showed up at the park, or headed toward your gathering has been there before, you should be welcoming to them. There is no magic timeframe for how long you have to be a part of a group before you can help be welcoming to newcomers. Some simple things you can say are, “Hi, is this your first time?” If it isn’t, that’s fine! Tell them how long you’ve been a part of the group and ask how long they’ve been coming. Maybe they had been away for a while and needed to feel noticed, and there you are noticing! If it is their first time, ask how they found out about the group. Introduce them to others. Don’t be afraid to ask for their name more than once. It’s ok to say, “I’m so sorry, but what was your name again?” Find connection points—do they work, does their husband work, where do their kids go to school, etc. If they have something in common with someone else in your group, introduce them.

Introverts An introvert needs social gatherings, yet they are very intimidated by them. They have to mentally prepare for joining a group and need to feel welcomed in. I recently read THIS blog post (please, go read it!), and it perfectly described my introverted friends. Be watching for anyone who shows up after you. If you are standing in a circle talking, make room for them to join the circle. If you are sitting at a table, scoot closer to make room and tell them you’ve done so. If you are in a conversation, allow them to join in by giving a brief synopsis of what is being talked about. Bring them in. Don’t expect them to push their way in. They would rather turn around and go back home than feel like they have to be pushy to join the group.

Extroverts who might be having a bad day Your friend who is an extrovert and normally the center of attention and initiator of conversation may be having a bad day. She might be tired. She might be lonely. I really like THIS post about myths about extroverts. Just as I said about the introverts, be watching for people who show up after you and don’t assume she’ll want to squeeze her way in and pick up in the middle of the conversation. It’s always nice, even if you’re an extrovert, when people put the effort into making you feel wanted and liked.

Latecomers We all know that it’s good to be on time to things. But as a mom, sometimes your day is just rough. And that means you might be late. Or maybe it wasn’t rough but you’re still late. And if you’re late, you’re aware of it. It bothers you, but there’s no way around it. You probably got upset at your kids because of it (even if it wasn’t their fault). And if you’re like me, sometimes you’d rather just not go than be late (a fact that I had to get over quickly after becoming a mom because otherwise we’d never go anywhere). So, as a member of a group who either showed up early, on time, or not last, please be mindful of latecomers. It takes so much courage for them to enter the room late. Be kind to them. Make sure there is a place for them to sit. If materials have been handed out, give them one as well. But don’t make their lateness a big deal. Tell them you’re glad they made it but don’t ask, “rough morning?” Help them become a part of what’s going on but don’t emphasize that they missed out on something by being late. Invite them in.

Regardless of if you are an introvert, extrovert, fairly new or seasoned attendee, it’s your responsibility to help a group be healthy. Keep your eyes open and be aware. It might take some effort at first, but eventually it can become more natural. It’ll be worth it. You’ll still have a great time hanging out with your friends while making a big difference to someone who probably desperately needs to feel connected.

How about you? What else would you add to this list for what to be mindful of?

And for those of you who are new, or have tried joining a group but not felt welcomed, I’ve been there! In the past year and a half I have been the new person at a mom’s group, church, Bible study and park play dates. I have so many thoughts I’d love to share about how to get connected quickly when you’re the new person, and will be sharing them soon!

Thanks for stopping by!

4 comments:

  1. So timely for me, as I just started a book club with some good friends, some acquaintances & some people I just met at our first meeting! Thank you for the reminder of what it feels like to try to join a group.

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    1. Hi Amy! That's great! I hope your book club goes well!

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  2. Jill, thanks so much for this post! My name is Tasha, and we just moved to Stayton in June, alllll the way from Delaware! I've been meaning to contact you, and this post really gave me the push. I have a lot that I was going to write, so could you comment with your email address? For some reason the email link didn't work for me. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Tasha!
      Welcome to Oregon! That's a big move! My parents moved from Oregon to Maryland 8 years ago. Such a big change. I would love to have you email me. My address is nolanandjill@gmail.com.
      I hope you're enjoying Stayton! I know a few people who live there.

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