Welcoming

hands holding four pieces of a puzzle with copy space, gray background

Welcoming is a word that I think we’re all struggling with because businesses are raising prices, our tempers are short, our tolerance is limited, and for the most part, many of us are tired of being welcoming. There is a lot of cynicism in this world. I understand that well because I am full of sarcastic quips. Why? Because life is short. If we can’t find ways to laugh in this world, we are screwed. Laughing at what other people insinuate, not wanting to be accomodating to those who claim mistreatment even though they’re the ones that caused the drama and don’t accept accountability – and other situations that we encounter continuously challenge us to be welcoming.

When I visit a new place, I automatically form opinions. I can’t help but internalize those opinions because so many variables come into play with first impressions. Restaurants can tell me if I’m about to have a great experience or a mediocre experience just from how the host and waitstaff greet me. The folks who are the most welcoming are the ones that don’t let the little things get in the way of making others feel welcome. They understand the nuances that can create experiences to be positive or negative.

Why is it so important to be welcoming? It’s simple. When a person feels included, they tend to feel as if they belong. Any business or place can alienate others. There are enough places that do this without considering the consequences. I am so tired of hearing how everything boils down to the almighty dollar. Money is necessary, but money by itself is never enough. Human interaction is imperative to having support through the good and bad times. 

Make eye contact and smile.  This action should be common sense 101, but we all struggle with this at times. What if someone makes you nervous and you avoid eye contact, and you are afraid to smile? Many people on this planet have not had to deal with this but struggle to get past the fear. I had a boss once that I swear I was scared to death because she had a stare that would make the most formidable person around want to crawl and find their mama for protection. She knew she was menacing and thrived on the reputation because it gave her a feeling of power over others. I only saw a fraction of a smile once, and that was after she fired a person. She never made any of the staff feel welcome to suggestions or comments. Many staff members said she made Cruella De Ville look like a saint. In her case, she detested others who went out of their way to be kind. I think she and Ebeneezer Scrooge must be related. The business folded about three years after I left, and I shudder to think about who she is now in charge of but am very grateful not to be one of them.

Use open body posture. Our posture says a lot about how welcoming we are. If we have crossed arms, a scowl on our face, our shoulders are slumped, our stance is determined to be deafening, and a demeanor of slack and lazy mobility, then we will not be construed as welcoming. Instead, we perceive a “don’t bother” mentality. I love my comfortable clothes and am acutely aware of missed opportunities because I didn’t appear to be welcoming to change. That’s on me, but the truth is that if you don’t feel welcoming, it’s ten times harder to convince others that you are welcoming. People see a reflection of your body language and interpret that language as to how you are feeling.

Put away things that cover your face or distractions like your phone.  I can give you a strong case in point. I stay glued to my phone, and when I know that I need to be open and reachable, that phone gets put up. If I don’t put it away, I will be more inclined to do everything except focus on the people around me. The same is true with a lot of folks. You might be one of them, but we all get distracted easily. It’s a difficult habit to change but a necessary one.

Take a deep interest in things that other people are doing. You might find that you are just as invested as they are when you allow yourself to learn about others. I don’t know the first thing about scuba diving, but I have a thriving cousin in that area. I love listening to her stories and seeing her photos. She’s accomplishing some incredible skills. I know very little about pottery but enjoy hearing the stories from my friends mastering the craft. There are so many areas that I know little about, but by allowing myself to learn from others, I’m finding some new hobbies to get excited about learning.

Ask 3 Questions for every one statement about yourself that you make. This action can become complex, and it’s okay to start small and work your way into that kind of information. The point is to keep learning about yourself and be welcome to new people because that’s the only way you will grow.

Try new things like traveling to different areas or countries. Okay. This hack is my favorite hack. Because of my travels, I’ve had experiences that I treasure. Learning how other countries thrive has taught me about accepting people and cultures that I don’t understand. See, each culture is a piece of history that helps make up many countries and families. Customs that may be a dying art to some of us is a way of life for others. They have found the pride and commitment necessary to feel good about their work.

Make an effort to attempt one new activity you haven’t tried every month. My friend Darla and I have spoken about this a lot. We both want to try something new at least once. It’s the only way we feel that we can continue to learn about what’s out there.

Try to see things from an outside perspective and study other cultures’ viewpoints. This action is essential if you want to step out of your comfort zone. Imagine you are a person who is walking into an area for the first time. Everything has become second nature to you, but they see things with new eyes. Try to remember what it was like when you were new. I can guarantee you that they may be struggling to feel welcomed.  

Expect new people to find you and want to start conversations.  This action is normal behavior, and if you are open and engaging, you might create a new network worth exploring.  

Become very self-aware and ask people close to you what you’re strengths and weaknesses are.  Feedback is essential to growing more welcoming and aware. Don’t be afraid of what others may tell you. You might find that the feedback is helpful to your presentation of yourself to others. 

Just remember that the way you treat others is a reflection of how welcoming you are. If you are going to slam groups on social media that don’t agree with you, understand that people may choose to keep you out of their interactions. I hope you can stay open to others and continue to be welcoming so that you don’t miss out on wonderful connections. Have a great day, everyone.

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