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Interpersonal Needs and The Human Spectrum

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Of course, there is also the possibility that group members will welcome in the proactive gesture of inclusion. There might be a sigh of relief that the matter of inclusion is being addressed by the person under consideration. There might also be appreciation for this “bold action” being taken (often leading to perspectives on the need for control in the group). Perhaps, most important is potential appreciation among group members of the risk taken in being proactive about inclusion. This often is aligned with being clear and transparent about one’s interpersonal needs and one’s concerns about group operations and dynamics. This, in turn, paves the way for effective transition in the future to addressing the interpersonal need for openness.

What about reactive Inclusion? I wait for other members of the group to invite me in. For many women of a previous era, this might remind them of waiting to be asked to dance at the high school prom. The pain of sitting at the side of the dance floor and hoping to be asked to dance is palpable. It is not just the fear of never being asked; it is also the fear of the wrong boy asking you to dance. Just to be balanced in offering the analogy of dance, it should be noted that the pain was also being suffered by the young men. What if she doesn’t want to dance with me? I will be crushed. It might be better to not ask her. But then I will just be sitting (or standing) here and making a fool of myself.

We are now grown up and are no longer attending high school dances (with an accompanying sigh of relief). Yet, the issue of reactive inclusion is still salient. How do I let members of the group that I would like to be considered for inclusion in the group? However, what if they don’t want me—perhaps it is better to just sit back and hope that I will be included. There are subtle ways to invite inclusion; however, it is also important not to seem too needy (like the tail wagging dog who is saying “pet me, pet me” or even “love me, love me”). There is also fear of being inconsequential. It might not even be a matter of thoughtful inclusion be the group. I simply might not matter. They have forgotten me. I have been left behind, while the other members of the group move forward.

There is also the matter of being the outsider – someone of the wrong gender, wrong race, wrong ethnic group, wrong age. For these people, the group is particularly likely to be in the shadow for them. They are likely to not know how the group is likely to really operate—given that they are on the outside. Yet, ironically, information about the group is particularly important for these people to gain—for when one is somehow in the minority, then the issue of inclusion is often particularly important and a potential source of major pain if the process of genuine inclusion is flawed. Resmaa Menakem, (2017) describes something called “micro-aggression” in his book, My Grandmother’s Hands. These are the small but frequent episodes of harm that are experienced by many marginalized people. Exclusion from a group – either formally or informally—can be one of these micro-aggressions (when informal) or can become a macro-aggression when the exclusion is formal (the “black ball” phenomenon).

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