There’s a regular event my kids and I attend, a bit of an annual celebration organized by another family. The invitation is always preceded with a bit of communication to confirm the date and time, to make sure we can all attend and the necessary adjustments are made to make sure everyone can attend. Sometimes it means a change of day, or a shift in the time we will gather.
The most recent gathering had a different energy to it; the date and time were predetermined and the usual adjustment of date and time to make sure everyone could attend did not happen. At our end, two of three of us were unable to attend, and since there was no accommodation all three of us felt bad about it. This experience of mine has made me think about the energy I put into invitations to gatherings, and how my behaviour reveals my intention, or purpose, for the gathering.
- Invite and see who comes. When I send a clear invitation out into the world, the people for whom it resonates, and for whom the timing works, will respond with a yes. An example is the Nest City Circle program that will take place September to December 2019, where I will cast a wide net and when the registrations come in I will see who has said yes.
- Invite specific people. It is a different kind of invitation when I am looking for particular people because I need to do a bit of work to find out who needs to be there, find out out what will make it work for them, and then take the action necessary to accommodate them.
These are two very different approaches. But if I want people to be at a gathering, it is my responsibility to ask them (after confirming they are interested in attending) what will make it work for them — and then do what they ask.
If I want people to be at a gathering, it is my responsibility to ask them (after confirming they are interested in attending) what will make it work for them — and then do what they ask.
Things to ask others about how to make a gathering work for them…
In my example above, my kids and I feel excluded because the date and time was inflexible; there was no accommodation, even when only a slight shift was needed, for all three of us to be able to attend. The first, and most simple way of accommodating people is to ask: Does the timing work? The day, the month, the time of day all come into play. It might be work schedules that get in the way, or a cultural event in the invitees’ world that I am unaware of. Asking what works allows them to tell me, and allows me to include them. Other logistical questions that help accommodate people and their needs, making them feel included, rather excluded. For example: how much notice is needed? what kind of food should be served? is translation is needed? Never underestimate how attention to these details can go a long way to welcome people into your gathering.
Enabling others’ participation also means asking, Are there any cultural protocols that I need to observe, or be aware of? Is there something special I need to wear? Is there a ceremony that needs to take place? Is there a gift I should bring, to offer thanks? Is there something I should not do? I might also want to ask, Do I need to offer compensation? This could be mileage and hotel costs, and depending on the context it could also include compensation for time. When I (or my client) is looking for information and insight from others, it is a good practice to ask, Am I asking for too much from you? Sometimes what I am asking for seems little to me, but it might involve a lot of work (mental or emotional) for the invitee and I have a responsibility to check in to confirm I am not asking for too much. I may need to shift to a more formal form of compensation where the work I am asking of the invitee is acknowledged with payment.
While I often feel vulnerable asking these questions, because it reveals what I do not know, I find that being willing to ask, and being open to the responses I receive and committed to act on those responses, something very simple is taking place: I am enabling a welcoming space.
The bottom line is this: if I want people to attend a gathering, I need to ask them what will make it work for them. This allows me to know what I need to do accommodate them. If I don’t ask them, I am making assumptions that allow me to unconsciously include or exclude them. When I know what I need to do to accommodate people, then I am consciously including or excluding them. If I do not ask, do not listen, do not accommodate, I exclude.
When I know what I need to do to accommodate people, then I am consciously including or excluding them. . . If I do not ask, do not listen, do not accommodate, I exclude.
What questions have you been asked, or actions others took, that made you feel your presence was sincerely wanted?