Social Connections and Inclusion
Tips to ENRICH Your ND Experience
BY EXPLORING DIFFERENCES
Take the initiative to get to know others. Reach out and have meaningful conversations with people with whom you wouldn’t ordinarily interact.
Get past the Notre Dame intro. Talk about things beyond your major, residence hall, etc.
Challenge yourself to be open and vulnerable. Closer relationships are based on a more complete understanding of the other person, which requires showing more vulnerable sides of yourself. Vulnerability is the opposite of weak; rather it’s a gift to the other person that communicates a choice to trust them.
Be equally open about yourself. Remember that this is not an interrogation and the other person is not your “case study.” Others will have a harder time connecting with you reveal things about yourself too.
Talk face-to-face like humans have done for millions of years. Texting is OK, but brevity often sacrifices intimacy and context.
Embrace the discomfort or awkwardness of stepping outside your comfort zone; this is normal.
Slow down and be present. It’s hard to get to know each other without spending time, if you are preoccupied with the next thing, or looking at your phone.
It’s all about the attitude. Having an attitude of Cultural Humility is more important than “multicultural competence.” It involves being humble, curious, kind, compassionate, non-judgmental, friendly, and respectful.
Avoid assumptions based on looks, dress, group membership or the like, as this can be off-putting and viewed as stereotyping.
Most people will welcome your friendliness and interest although some may be wary of your intentions (e.g., romantic interest), especially if the interaction appears sudden, unexpected, or the person doesn’t know you at all.
Some people may not be interested or receptive. Don’t take it personally, as it might have nothing to do with you (e.g., shy, having a bad day). Lack of interest does not mean the person is better than you or even dislikes you. Rather, it is often a matter of perceived fit. We won’t connect or click with everyone and we don’t have to. Be open to those who are interested in knowing you.
It’s OK not to know about things (topics, culture, interests) that the other person knows about. Be humbly curious and learn. Many people will welcome introducing you to things with which you are unfamiliar.
Expect imperfection. Human interactions are imperfect and most people are understanding of others’ discomfort. Don’t worry about saying the “wrong thing.” If you said something that seemed to be received in a negative light, humbly ask for feedback as this can be an opportunity for interpersonal learning and understanding. Apologize for how it came across.
Assume good intentions. If you feel hurt by something that was said or done, don’t assume the other person did it on purpose or is even aware. Kindly give them this feedback, noting objectively what happened and how you felt about it (using I statements), and how you perceived it. This allows for clarification of what was meant, and an apology if appropriate.
Ask open-ended questions that don’t result in a yes/no answer. Questions beginning with “what” or “how” are best. For example, “What is that like?” “How did you get interested in _____?”
Listen actively. If you ask someone a question, actively listen to the answer. Humbly ask about things you don’t understand. Paraphrase back what they said to check if you understand, which allows the other person to clarify.
Don’t push too hard. Recognize that some things may feel too vulnerable and the person may not feel safe enough or ready to disclose more.
Exploring Each Others’ Stories
- Family background: Tell me about your family. What are they like?
- National origin: Where are you from? What is it like? What do you miss/not miss? How is it similar/different from here?
- Beliefs: What do you believe in?
- Personality: How would you describe your personality? How would others describe you?
- Values: What really matters to you?
- Race/ethnicity: How would you describe your racial/ethnic background?
- *Interest*s: What do you like to do? What interests do you have that are different or uncommon?
- Feelings: How have you been feeling? Tell me what that feels like.
- Struggles, challenges, and barriers: What’s been difficult for you? What challenges have you faced?
- Privileges: What do you often take for granted?
- Religious faith/spirituality: How would you describe your religious background? What does it mean to you?
- Gender: What aspects of traditional masculinity/femininity fit for you? What doesn’t?
- Sexual orientation: (this is tricky because it could convey romantic interest). Any interest in dating? Do you have a significant other?
- Other things to say/ask: Tell me more about… Help me understand. What is that like? How is your experience similar? How is it different?