You know what it’s like, that awkward moment when you step into a room to feel the tension so high everyone is tiptoing so as not to step on the eggshells. It’s no fun. Eighteen years ago, I had my TMJ disorder flair up. This wasn’t a simple case of the jaw not functioning correctly; it was a full-blown lockdown of the jaw. I couldn’t eat rice and lost weight using Slimfast with ice cream! The solution was to visit a dentist who specialized in TMJ disorder. From the moment I walked into his office, I knew I was in trouble. The room held tension like a hot air balloon. No one joked around or made anyone feel at home. I don’t know how many times I came away in tears from the atmosphere and the pain of those shots.
This past weekend, I took twelve students to the Oregon Asociation of Student Councils’ fall leadership conference. The keynote speaker, Phil Boyte, shared with us how to connect with our student body and staff. As I condensed the information, I realized it was good for everyone and could be used in the workplace, home, school, and even church. So, here is my take on Phil’s information on how to have a place where people aren’t afraid to walk through the doors.
1. Start Simple
During the session with Phil, he had us rearrange our seats and sit with someone we had never met before. After a quick ice breaker, he had us turn knee to knee and share one thing about ourselves. We took turns sharing until the time was up. Then we shared “Most people don’t know that…” What amazed me was how many of the students reported back a connection with that one person. It took a total of five maybe ten minutes. That time though gave one student the courage to follow another on Instagram. Another student when lost later that evening found her partner and asked where to go. A third student commented the next day how amazed he was that he could still list things about his partner from the day before.
It doesn’t take much to begin building bridges. It takes a foundation of friendship. Just like in our time in the conference, if you reach out to one person and find out about him or her, you can make the difference in your class, job, or family. To start with find just one person. Then build another block to your bridge by reaching out to another person. Find out their favorite things. Then surprise them with one on a special day. Everyone enjoys a gift just because. Sometimes just a smile on a bad day is enough to lighten the mood and give you hope to carry on.
2. Be Intentional
Find ways every day to be kind and learn about the people around you. Be genuine in your interest. It doesn’t take much to ask how a person’s day was, and mean it. Then when you hear about them being afraid or concerned about something, check back with them to see how it went.
The last two years, I had a student who was in Spanish 1 and then Spanish 2. Every day, she’d skip down the hall in the morning and stick her head into my room to say, “Hola, Senora Wyatt!” Her cheerful smile made my day.
Choose to be that one who brings a smile to someone’s face every day. You’ll be surprised at how that can change the atmosphere around you.
3. Be Persistent
People are creatures of habit. When someone isn’t accustomed to another caring for them, it may take a while to break down the walls that have built up. In Anne of Green Gables, Marilla Cuthbert doesn’t want a boy, but Matthew comes back with a girl. Anne Shirley eventually won Marilla over. It took a lot of persistence and several mess ups on Anne’s part. The same is true of your situation. You will have obsticles. Be prepared to bounce back and keep being friendly.
4. Be Creative
One school shared how they had given a survey to the new teachers who had been hired that year. Then on the first day of school, they had a student deliver the teacher’s favorite breakfast beverage. Later in the day, they had a different student deliver the teacher’s favorite candy bar, and at the end of the day, the new teachers found a note in their mailboxes thanking them for their hard work that day! Now, that’s creative.
Think of fun ways to show someone that they are important. Remember that different people hear kindness (love) in different ways. Some use words, others meaningful touch, while others want to serve and be served.
How are you going to make the environment you live in special? Sign in to Facebook to leave a comment and let me know what your thoughts are.