To one degree or another, we all want to be accepted. We're social beings and we like feeling that we're part of the group, we enjoy being recognized and acknowledged and we desire to have a meaningful sense of belonging. These make us feel good, valued and respected.
If we want to feel this way, it's safe to assume others do too. What can we do to make others feel what it is that we want for ourselves? How do we make sure they feel included, appreciated and valued?
Before going into some things we can do to make others feel welcome and included, let's take a quick look at the messages we may unintentionally be communicating when we don't make others feel included. As a result of our actions - or lack thereof - what might others "emotionally hear" when they're being ignored or excluded?
"You're not one of us."
"You don't matter."
"It's not important that you've come."
"I'm indifferent to your being here."
"There are more interesting or more important people to talk to that you."
Chances are that these phrases are not intentionally going on in our minds. They're also probably not what is consciously thought about in mind of the excluded person. However, they do put words to feelings of discomfort, self-consciousness, and of being unvalued and feeling out of place.
Are these the message we really want others to receive?
Exclusion occurs because of a lack of attention. It doesn't mean we're actively excluding someone or actively withholding our attention. It's that we're just not paying attention: our lack of attention results in our inaction that causes the exclusion. It's when we simply ignore someone who just entered the room, when we don't invite them into the conversation, or when we neglect to ask them to participate. Once we can empathize and understand how uncomfortable it can feel to be excluded, intended or not, we can then be more aware of what we can do to alleviate that feeling.
Five Actions to Make Someone Feel Included
Here are five actions we can take to make someone feel included and welcome.
1. When someone enters the room alone, welcome and acknowledge her. A friendly smile and "hello" is a good start. In other situations, however, you may only be able to look over and nod. Either way, the person entering will have received some recognition that her presence was noticed.
2. If you're part of an established group, team or department and a new person has recently joined, go over and introduce yourself. Take a minute find out a few things about him and introduce him to some of the other people in the group. At the end of the day, go to his office and ask how his day went and if there are any questions he has or information he needs to help him settle in.
3. In social situations, try to involve the quiet people by encouraging them to participate in the conversation. They probably have something to say and contribute but because they're shy they just need to be actively invited. Ask them some questions or get their opinions and make sure you listen to their answers. This is especially important when you're working on a group project or in a team so that you get everyone's input and involvement in the project.
4. If you're making plans to go out for drinks after work with a few colleagues, invite everyone who is present and who is listening to the conversation. There may be a reason why you don't want to include everyone and, if that's the case, make arrangements privately so not to cause someone to feel badly because they weren't invited.
5. When someone new joins a conversation, take a few seconds to bring her up to speed and tell her what the discussion is about so she can participate also.
Making someone feel included isn't difficult. Making the effort to include others in social situations takes attention and care. The more we do this in our daily interactions, the more we can make others feel valued, appreciated and respected.
Laurie Wilhelm manages the Express Yourself to Success website, a one-stop e-source with information and techniques on interpersonal skills, public speaking, networking and conflict resolution. Achieve your success by working effectively with others and boost your career with good communication skills. Sign up today for our free eNewsletter, One Minute to Express .