In philosophy last week we discussed whether we were an 'includer' by nature - or not?
This is something that we can easily fail to develop in ourselves and may not value or develop in children. Yet the capacity and willingness to think about others and include them makes a profound difference for people of all ages. It could be a child at pre-school who is willing to share, an adult at a party who keeps an eye out for anyone standing on their own, a colleague who will take the time to show a newcomer around a workplace, or someone happy to draw others out and help them feel affirmed and welcome.
In so many situations a moment of generosity and thoughtfulness can make all the difference between someone feeling like an outsider, with all the agonies that can produce, and feeling included.
The image of a child standing alone in a crowded playground, without the protection of company and friends, certainly haunts me.
Feeling included is vital for our emotional health and wellbeing and it will affect dramatically how we think about other people as well as ourselves. It will also affect whether we see the world as essentially friendly or hostile. Because most of us underestimate our own personal power and overestimate other people's, we are likely to spend far more time worrying about being left out rather than whether and how we are including others.
Yet this is always a complex dance. We have chances to be included; we have at least as many chances to offer that vital sense of inclusion to others.
Behaving in ways that are welcoming and inclusive lifts our own spirits - at any age. In fact, being actively inclusive and friendly does wonders for most people's personal and social confidence. Nevertheless, there will always be some people who remain fearful that reaching out to others will make them seem needy or vulnerable.
It's tempting to believe that other people have an easier time feeling part of things than we do. Yet being real about our own insecurities should help us see how common they are and what we could do about them. In fact, honesty about our own social vulnerability creates a good basis for empathy and can give us the courage to be proactive rather than daunted.
Acknowledging your power to bring other people in rather than leave them out already makes a difference.
I am amazed at how many people complain about feeling left out or overlooked while never considering how they might save others from similar experiences. Including others is a win-win situation: great for them, great for ourselves.
Some people are naturally attuned to others, always keeping an eye out for those on the margins or those feeling new or unsure in any social situation. They are society's treasures and we can all learn from them. I feel very privileged to know many people like this and grateful they are part of my life.
An easy sense of belonging is essential to feeling safe, inwardly and outwardly. Whatever our age or status, we are free to appreciate that sense of belonging and to offer it freely to others.
It is an exceptionally uplifting way to move through the world!
Yet another 'Sculpture by the Sea' Exhibit - Nov 2003
Nov 2008, 'Sculpture by the Sea' - We are all very different and at the same time very similar!