We all join various groups at various times in our work and our life. When we do, the experience is often fraught with a measure of uncertainty, anxiety, dread, or discomfort. These feelings impair our normal ability to function at our usual level of productivity.
They will also interfere with the ordinary human processes of revealing who you are and developing smooth relationships with others.
The result will often be an extra layer of social difficulty that makes it harder to form solid relationships, to find your place within the new group, and to contribute to its success as much as you would like. With these feelings in control, you may need extra time to “fit in,” and — by starting off with the new group on the wrong foot — you may never gain as much comradery or traction as you otherwise could.
Fortunately, there are some techniques to help you more easily find your best fit with a new group. They include:
Listen First, Speak Later
Sometimes, people who are nervous or uncomfortable seek to hide these feelings by talking early and often. Most times, they talk too much. However, the better approach when you’re nervous about meeting new people or finding your fit within a new group is generally to listen.
By listening to your new acquaintances more than you talk, you give yourself the opportunity to learn about them as individuals, to understand how the group operates, and to figure out how you can best apply your strengths and contribute to the group’s process and success.
When you do speak in the new group, it’s usually better to ask questions instead of giving answers. Your questions show that you’re interested and eager to learn, and the answers you receive allow you to more quickly absorb enough specifics to feel confident and accepted.
Listening instead of talking has another, surprising advantage: when you spend more time listening intently and letting others talk, they tend to form a more flattering, higher opinion of you.
Ask for Help
Whatever role you play in the new group, whatever your responsibilities, try to be more than willing to accept help and listen to advice from others.
It’s a curious human trait, but the more you let others help you, the better they will feel about accepting you, appreciating your efforts, and evaluating your contributions as worthwhile.
It’s also a good strategy to readily admit what you don’t know, and immediately own up to any mistakes you may make.
This humility makes you more acceptable and less threatening to others in the group. That’s right: threatening. You’ll often find other people in a group you’ve just joined are as uncomfortable learning to deal with you — the stranger — as you are with them.
In new and uncomfortable circumstances, volunteering to do more, to help out, and to be responsible tends to be an important strategy that facilitates your entry and acceptance into the new group.
The more you do, the more you’ll understand what the group is trying to accomplish, how it operates, what roles each of the other group members play, and where you can best fit in.
The more you help out, the more you’ll facilitate what other group members are trying to accomplish. As a result, they’ll come to appreciate you sooner for who you are and what you can contribute to the group.
The more responsibility you shoulder, the faster you’ll come to be seen as a useful — even vital — member of the group, and the earlier the group will accomplish its tasks, projects, and goals. Your contributions to these results will mark you as a full-fledged member of the group with whom the others will more willingly and happily interact.
All of these techniques will ease your transition into a new group and cast in a favorable light. Before you know it, you’ll stop feeling uncertain, anxious, or uncomfortable, and the “strangers” in the new group will become people you know and understand in surprising depth.
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