So the lock down gave us many oppourtunities and time to connect with loved ones far and near on the various digital platforms. Perhaps also with some family and friends overseas whom we had not /did not get a chance to connect with in last few years. It gave us a chance to know each other better, see how we have all evolved over time, yet notice that some aspects about us are still perhaps the same.
For some of us, it may have been a huge serotonin surge, a celebration, a big high, going down memory lane, the fun and banter, uninhibited, without any care, pure joy and pure laughter – especially if you were connectng with folks who were very close with and you could rekindle that relationship again. This likely woud have happened because you spoke the common language – not necesaarily and only, literally, the mother tongue (that can bond too), but maybe a childhood event, or a collective common experience of the past – a trip, an adventure, a life changing event etc. or you realised how alike your thinking and your current passions are. You may have felt that we completely belong here –speaking the same language, sharing the same experiences and almost wondering to yourself “Where were we for so long? Why did we not connect? We should do this more often. Lets keep this going”.
For folks who thrive in connection, and/or are socially outspoken this must have felt like an adrenaline kick leaving a warm fuzzy hangover for the next few days where the whats app groups may have started beeping incessantly with a flurry of messages sharing love and connection, common jokes, more story telling, planning joint trips in the future, sharing photos etc etc. with reflections and promises now to always keep in touch – pandemic or no pandemic. One may have felt glorious, golden, content, happy blissful and just joy that eveyone is back together again – connected.
However, have you noticed that in the process, especially in the large groups, inadvertently, there are some who felt left out and like outsiders. Who just remained on the sidelines, quiet, observing. Unintentionally, did some folks get excluded? Folks who we wanted that they join, particiapte and connect, but for some reason that just did not happen. Perhaps they were the folks who don’t ususally show up and strive too much to keep connected so had lesser common experiences, or take some time to open up in large groups and thus did not find their voice, but they still made an effort to show up this time…
But were we so caught up in our own banter that their voice and presence got overshadowed? Instead of trying to figure out whats happening on their end, or find a commonality, or maybe even pausing to intentionally listen and learn something new about them, did we land up creating a group called Minority? Folks who have not kept in touch for whatever reason? Folks who speak less? Did we in our enthusiasm alienate some folks who are introverted/not clued in/not been part of that experience? Did we just assume that he/she is just a quiet person?
Does this not happen in real life too? At social dos, work, school, community events? How often do we inadvertently or intentionally create a minority group…in our own families, in our own social cricles, at work? And then how it expands into the world? And the impact is here for all of us to see.
II am sure all of us at some point may have experienced this feeling of not only not fitting in, but the frustration of not being able to do any othing about it. Especially because there is nothing explicit, inadvertent and unintentional. Not mean bullying but just lack of awareness.
Some of us may have been on both ends of the spectrum – sometimes we may have felt so in place that we were part of the exhilaration and sometimes we felt completely invisible. Having experienced both or seeing folks in both these groups can we change our approach with this enhanced awareness - Instead of asking that person WHY don’t you keep in touch? Why don’t you speak? Why don’t you smile? Perhaps we need to ensure that our communication is such that it invites the other person to come up and share and speak and become a part of the entire collective. Perhaps we need to shine a spotlight on that person’s participation today, in this meeting, to engage him rather than pinpointing or highlighting that he/she does not particpate or smile or talk. That will never help him/her open up and share anything, that certainly will not excite him/her to participate again, if that is our intention.
Perhaps we can ask him/her questions creatively to explore what commonality could we possibly share or what you could learn new about him/her or about life in general. There is so so much that we can learn from each other and each other’s experiences. We need to get creative about how we engage people rather that assuming/ waiting for the other to engage or using the age old adage of “Hey cmon you should particpate more, talk more, smile more”.
So next time in a group setting, virtual or in person, instead of identifying our differences, can we pause! And see if we can engage in our conversations with more awareness, to consciously and intentionally include everyone such that we can explore -
1) A common language we already share (a common experience, hobby, opinion, preferences)
2) More common languages that we could share (create more collective experiences, without excluding anyone or creating any minority group) and
3) And No matter how irrelevant it may feel now, see if you can learn a new language fron each other (what new you can learn about others).
Inspired by the TEDx Talk on The most important language you wil ever learn by Poet Ali - https://youtu.be/488ZBeaGo6s