Have you ever been in a situation where you feel invisible or excluded: an unrecognised cog in a wheel; faceless; of little value?
This sounds dramatic but it occurs thousand of times every day in many different settings: at work; with friends; in the pub; in the sports team; at home.
Excluding people & making them feel devalued is rarely a deliberate act, but there are some habits, behaviours & activities that work really well in achieving this. These work particularly well when we are dealing with people new to our group or familiar people we don’t already know.
Here are my top 12 tips on how to make it happen:
- Leave Them Alone: This is probably one of the most effective strategies to alienation. People standing on their own, often in a corner or at the side clearly have a problem with socialising. Leave them alone or for other people to approach. After all, if they really wanted to speak they would find someone. It is irrelevant if they are shy, introverted, disabled or just plain new. It will sort itself out eventually.
- Wandering Eye Syndrome: We all know how inconvenient it can be spending time with people we don’t know or who can’t further or personal progress. So, if you get lumbered speaking to such people, make sure that you scan the room for better or more important people to speak with. At some stage, you will see someone & have a justifiable excuse to relieve yourself from your current burden. After all, what can these newcomers offer that your existing friends don’t already?
- The Conversation Interruption: This is probably the most underestimated weapon in your arsenal. See someone in conversation you know, then simply butt in, even if they are speaking to a newcomer or someone else & start talking. One of the places I visit frequently are so good at this that the place name has become a verb; to be ‘Emmanuelled.’ It’s a great practice to maintain as it spreads like wildfire & soon, the whole culture finds it acceptable & effective.
- Bring In A Friend: If you are struggling to talk to a newcomer or stranger, invite in a good friend into the conversation & focus your conversation on them. It’s always good to include a few facts about the person you were speaking to so that they don’t feel too left out.
- Body Language: If you are in a group & want to let people understand that you do not want to be interrupted by outsides, stand or sit in a circle or huddle, facing inwards with your backs outwards. Be careful to leave no gaps in case someone misinterprets that as an opportunity to join in your conversation. This is a great way of telling others to try elsewhere.
- One Way Flow: There is nothing quite like telling others about yourself. This is especially important with newcomers or strangers. If you tell them in endless detail about your family, accomplishments & future aspirations you will inspire them to look up to you & perhaps even become like you. It is very important if they attempt to to tell you anything about themselves to show how you have been in exactly the same situation & come through it with flying colours. This also gives great opportunity to brag (explain) about your family, especially siblings & children, even if it has no direct relevance to the conversation in hand.
- Perfecting Lack of Appreciation: A real winner when it comes to destroying the confidence in others & a great move to keep the group small. We all know that people only help others because they are craving attention & praise, so what better way to counter that than let them give their time, energy & talent for free (well, at cost to them) & then simply act as if it is the expected norm. As a friend of mine once said to me, “I only make a comment when something is wrong as there is no need to when they are getting things right.”
- Create A Clique: This relates to items 4 & 5 above. The great thing about a closed circle of friends is that they can be trusted. Well, perhaps more a case of at least you know them. There is no point in falsely raising the hope of a potential newcomer, so simply let them know they are not needed by sticking to the people you already know, especially if they can further your progress & status. It is probably best not to openly refer to the group as a clique. Terms such as ‘my circle of friends’ or ‘our club’ or ‘in this family’ or the like are much more appropriate & easier to defend.
- Avoid Important Subjects: People less familiar to ourselves or who are new do not want to be engaged in meaningful or deeper conversation. Even if they allude to it, they are simply creating a front or trying to build a bridge in. You are best to divert any such conversations to more trivial subjects. At all costs avoid anything emotional & if they do manage to slip something into a conversation, smile, nod in a knowing manner, perhaps use words like “I understand” & then rapidly change subject or escape.
- Make An Instant Judgement: The last thing many of us want is to make a reasoned judgement. Take a look at their clothes, hairstyle, mannerisms; note their accent; note the way they stand. You will get a truly accurate picture if you do this from a distance without even speaking to them. If you are unwittingly engaged in conversation, look for a few key words like “I” “Today” or “Home” & draw your own conclusion. Don’t be misled by apparent emotion or by facial expressions. Remember that the aim is to keep the group small, select & to your own advantage. Letting just anyone in could upset the dynamic & may prove embarrassing for you if you can’t answer their questions.
- Can They Help Me?: Of paramount importance in the development of a new relationship or friendship is the question, “How will knowing this person help me?” Relationships should not be based on what we can do for others, but on what they can do for us. Other important questions include, “Does knowing them make me look good?” “Will knowing them harm my reputation?” “Will they help me get to where I want to be?” These questions can be asked by individuals & groups as the outcome is the same. Forget the notion that this other person may be shy, lonely or need someone to talk or relate to. Addressing those issues can be time-consuming, messy & cost us in effort & energy.
- Be Full Of Good Intentions: Sometimes we cannot escape speaking to strangers, newcomers or outsiders. In such instances, a great tactic is to offer to meet-up, chat or help at sometime soon or in the future. This gives us space to forget or fill our time with other things so that engaging in what we suggested cannot really happen. We all feel much better as we have offered to help, but have been prevented from doing so by life’s circumstances getting in the way.
Many of these when practised often enough become a habit, sub-consciously ingrained in our lives. When they become part of a group culture they lead ultimately to the destruction of that group, one way or the other.
Exactly why we do these things is a huge subject beyond the scope of this post.
What is clear is that we almost always have a choice. Easy or hard, the majority of us can decide to change … or not. We can aim to do the opposite, create our own set of anti-tips that help people to feel included, build them up, feel valued & part of our community.
The big question is, Do we want to?
When we decide yes, we will find a way.
When we decide no, we start to dig our own grave, individually or as a group, society or team. It is likely to be us stepping over the cliff edge as much as those we seek to exclude.
Take care until next time …