Monday, March 3, 2014

A Little Question Goes A Long Way

Do you remember when you were a kid,and you got invited to a birthday party or a slumber party that you'd really wanted to be included in? You felt all important and RSVP'd right away, right? Then remember in high school and college when this happened again? If it wasn't a party, it was some activity or special interest club or fraternity or sorority or whatever it was. I bet it felt good to be invited, , even if it wasn't something you were particularly excited about. . It made you feel like you were wanted. Remember when your boss trusted you with that first high profile project, or the first time someone nominated you for an award within a professional organization? In a more adult way, this probably provided a similar feeling. It feels special when someone specifically thinks of you and reaches out.

But I'm seeing a funny trend these days, and it's a bit disconcerting to me. It seems the majority of people no longer ask. They no longer invite. They don't nominate you for something. They don't check to see if you want to be part of something. They expect you to volunteer, to invite yourself. It seems to be thought that if you care about something, you'll stand up and say "pick me". Now don't get me wrong, I think it's great that some people have the courage and confidence to volunteer, or to even ask to be invited or included. But the problem is, not everyone has this. Some people feel that if they're not asked, they're not wanted. Or they don't believe they have the skills needed for the project. They don't realize people are waiting for them to raise their hands.

I blame, in part, the use of technology to announce everything these days. First off, not everyone uses social media, and even if they do they may not see it (nobody understands who sees which posts on Facebook, really). Secondly, this kind of "ask" is very impersonal. Think about it...when someone invites you and all 784 of their other Facebook friends/people on their eblast list to participate in an event or project, do you honestly feel like they care what your reply is? I can say at least for myself, the answer is no.  In addition, the people who do believe you care and raise their hand up high in reply aren't always the right people (ever created a Facebook status with "I have an extra ticket to...." and get only the people you'd rather NOT go replying, for instance)?

The bottom line is, people like to be asked. Maybe it's because they want to know that they're actually wanted. Maybe they need that boost of confidence. Maybe it's because they just don't see it if they're not personally asked. Maybe it's some other reason. It's fine if you want to put invites and the like "out there".  But if you really want someone included, or you really think someone would be great for a project or position or something like that, reach out to them personally. If you're worried they'll feel obligated, let them know that they're not. I frequently say to people something like "listen, no obligation but (insert invite). I know you're super busy/hate toga parties/have no idea how to play parcheesi, but I just didn't want you to think I wasn't including you." This way they're not on the spot, but know you were thinking of them.

So I'd like to present a little challenge. Next time you have an opportunity - social, work, personal project - write a list of five people you'd really like to include, and personally contact them. Even if they're not available to participate (or choose not to), I bet they appreciate being personally considered. 

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