Do you remember the playgrounds of your youth? Recess may have been the best part of your day – or it could have been pure torture, right?
I ask because no matter how much older we get, we can easily fall into the same patterns we developed back when we were five and six.
What am I talking about? I'm talking about the need to feel like we're part of something. The need to be part of a team, part of a group, a sense of belonging.
We all want the acceptance that comes from being part of the “insiders” rather than part of the “outsiders”.
Ever been to a WordCamp?
If you've been to a WordCamp, you've likely experienced a version of what I'm talking about. It's pretty easy to see groups gathering. They're not being exclusive, but that doesn't mean you feel like walking straight up to them to jump into a conversation, right?
They're the insiders. Even without meaning anything. They're just friends talking to friends.
But if you're new, or you've been around just a bit – then you know enough to know who they are, but not enough to feel confident to walk up and join the fun.
Want to know the crazy part?
Everyone has felt that way. Every one of us. More than once. And eventually we realized this was a really approachable community. But that's because we had the “stuff” to stick it out, past the feelings of insecurity and awkwardness.
Be part of the solution
I've told you several times that several years ago I married up. Right? My wife, Melissa, is the sweet, kind, giving, caring, giver-of-second-and-third-chances. Me? My default isn't nearly as nice and sweet. But I try to learn from people better than me.
The thing I respect most about Melissa is how she works a crowd. It's completely different than I do. I jump into storytelling mode and try to entertain. She looks at the crowds and finds the people standing on the outside. She finds the folks on the fringe who haven't felt comfortable enough to join the crowd.
She approaches them and connects. She learns their story. And she then goes about connecting their story to hers in some way. In that way, she's naturally building a network. And she's helping them feel more connected. And accepted.
I'll admit, I'm still not great at this, but I can tell you I keep trying. In the eight years my partner in life has helped open my eyes to see the disconnected and disenfranchised.
Providing a place to belong
A few months ago I realized that there was something happening online that was incredible and that I envied. The larger WordPress companies were creating their own internal networks and having fun on them. And every now and then they'd tweet a quote – only making me more jealous. 🙂
I kid, but seriously, it left me asking a general question: are there independent freelancers and really small companies (<5) that would benefit from grouping together to chat? Would they like the same internal network?
Wouldn't that provide a sense of belonging and acceptance in a way that freelancing often eliminates from our world?
Rather than feel left “outside” of someone else's network (which they have for legitimate reasons), I created my own space for others to feel that connection. If you've seen a reference to #indeWP or #indeWPChat that's what that is all about.
It's not yet open to everyone. I'm growing it slowly – but not in an exclusive way. I just want to make sure that it keeps adding value as it grows.
What about you?
My point of this article isn't to tell you about my little hipchat group. Instead, my goal is to encourage you to create ways and places where others can feel connected and accepted.
There are tons of opportunities around you right now. If you look around with intention, I think you'll find tons of folks that want a connection. And it won't take you much, is my guess, to create a community where people find a place to belong. A place of acceptance.
If you do something with what you've read here, please circle back and let me know.