You are a police officer arriving on the scene of a very tenuous situation, with escalation of violence presenting a real possibility. In mere moments, the situation quickly erupts to a level that has become all too common in the headlines OR guidance can be brought that leads to dialogue among community members. How do you handle this situation?
What if the last question was a little more nuanced than you realized? What if the reality in this situation and many other challenging situations wasn’t answered in the moment of crisis?
In our collective experience, we have recognized the same principal that is valuable in de-escalating challenges also is imperative in growing communities. The answer to these problems and opportunities often happens long before the situation ever arises.
It is fleshed out in private conversations before things have escalated. It happens when people go out and build community. Building community happens through relationships. We tend to point to the people out front, they’re visible – it’s easy. Often the person who has been laying the foundation paving the way for community success can be overlooked.
We heap praise on more public individuals. Yet, how often do we stop and think about the people who are working behind the scenes for the benefit of all members of the community? These people do not possess big titles or the cache of more prominent members of their organization.
It might be the administrative assistant who consistently listens to co-workers who find themselves in a bind. It is a front-line attendant who steps in to provide value when the customer has a bad experience. It is the person who makes an introduction to provide someone they trust with access to a new environment.
These are the people connecting members of the community to one another. For a community to thrive, we need a lot of people working together for the bigger picture, and these bridge-builders make the work easier for the rest of us.
Wondering how you can do this for others in your community? Find places where you can have impact. Get to know your community. Seek first to give. Spend time getting to know the individuals. Always keep in mind what your motivation, purpose, and drive are – not just to grow your network, but to grow impact. Think about the circles of people you can touch and go add value to their lives.
In a world of 24/7 media coverage and social media saturation, boots on the ground are still the primary way to make community. People want to see a face. They want to know if you can be trusted. Just showing up when you need something doesn’t build a relationship. The relationships that you have built are the credibility you have in a community.