The Language Of “You Belong Here”

You belong here

Of all the compliments you can pay someone, “you belong here” IS the greatest –

In the age of peri-pandemic alienation, no matter what your job, your role is to make others feel like they belong. Until someone feels connected by a common bond or purpose, they operate in fear, uncertainty or doubt. They’re scared of messing up and being embarrassed or humiliated. Only once they feel part of the TRIBE, can they fully express their gifts and maximize their contribution. A single sentence or gesture from you can free people up to be great or constrain them to be self-protective. 

Belong may be the most emotive verb in the English language. It’s both the cause and effect of happiness, love, belief and the realization of one’s dreams. It’s essential for feelings of safety, comfort, and joy. It refers to time, place, culture, relationship and mindset. It’s the difference between laying down roots or looking for somewhere else to go. Its absence condemns one to a life of fear, suspicion, and isolation. In short, it’s an essential aspect of the human experience.

You Belong Here is a language all of its own. If you speak that language, people will be drawn to you because you never make them feel “less than” or “other”, only “equal to.” You’ll never speak down to them, only up to them. You’ll be a walking safe space in a world that feels increasingly threatening. Most importantly, every word will reinvest you with a sense of connection to those around you. Even when you’re having a difficult conversation, it will be one that is characterized by respect, compassion and acceptance for the other person.

The language of ‘You belong here” (YBH) is the vocabulary of connection. It’s a direct route to rapport and interpersonal harmony. It removes others’ doubt that you don’t care or you don’t understand them. It’s an immediate bridge to the next level in the relationship because it builds trust – others shed their fears and relax into the experience of being with you.

There are 7 core components of speaking the language of “You Belong Here” – both verbal and non-verbal. These are specific mindsets, words and actions that you can begin using right now to make an impact.

1.  Make others feel welcome

Through your expressions and gestures, show that you’re glad to be with them – even when the conversation is difficult. Think about how you would express your openness, connection, or warmth. Would you smile? Would you physically reach out? Would you use a gentle tone? Would you be loud or soft? Would your arms be open or closed? Would you be calm or agitated? Would you seem hurried or patient? You know the answers.

2. Listen with intention

Take notice of what’s being said and how it’s being said. Discern the meaning behind what’s being said. Be curious about others’ opinions or perspectives. Infuse your voice with empathy, fascination and tenderness. 

3. Be cognisant of the context of the conversation

Know the circumstances influencing your interaction. What level is the other person at? Do they feel uncomfortable? Are they scared? Are you solving an existential problem? Do they need reassurance? Are you celebrating together? What is happening in the other person’s world that is impacting this interaction? How is their reality changing? 

4. Be authentic, vulnerable, and self-effacing

You must do you. But you must do the best version of yourself in any given situation. Authentic, in the context of YBH, means you’re being true to the highest expression of your character. It means that you are playing full out, not playing it safe. 

Take your responsibility earnestly but take yourself lightly. Help people have fun by making fun of yourself before anybody else can. 

5. Build rapport by demonstrating your love of others

Rapport means harmonious connection. It’s when you experience mutual empathy and understanding that makes communication clear and easy. It’s a choice to search for the magic that each person brings to the relationship and celebrate it with them.

Rapport is activated and accelerated by the language of YBH. By expressing your love of others, it makes them love you back.

6. Declare your absolute support for others—and follow through

The language of YBH all comes down to this: can I trust your word? Will you protect me if I take a risk, give my all, and I still fail?

We can only face the future because of the people behind us. Our sense of belonging is directly proportionate to the security we derive from the collective. Loyalty is earned one commitment, one follow-through at a time. Irrespective of your role or status, if you build a reputation as someone who is totally invested in the well-being and success of others, they will vote for you. 

7. Work to avoid microaggressions

A microaggression is a statement or gesture with implications that diminish or question the other person’s validity, worth, or status. Microaggressions range from the most blatant to the most subtle. They’re made even worse by the speaker’s apparent lack of awareness or caring about the impact of their statement on the well-being or dignity of others. 

As an agent of belonging, you need a trusted cadre of advisors who can coach you on the appropriate language and immediately correct you on your errant phrases. If you make a microaggression, even if you’re sure you didn’t intend it, just apologize and acknowledge the injury to others. It hurts you much less to do so than it hurts them if you don’t. And pass the favour on: quietly let others know of their discordant words so they can take appropriate action. If you are at the receiving end of microaggression, assume good intent and alert the other person to their misspeak.

Think of 5 people to whom you can reach out and make feel like they belong. They can be colleagues, clients or community members. They may be new to your organization or even new to your country. What could you say to them that will stoke their sense of belonging? How could you welcome them into the fold so they feel empowered to fully express themselves? Congratulations. My name is Mike Lipkin and you belong here. 

2 thoughts on “The Language Of “You Belong Here”

  1. Karen

    Excellent and thoughtful tips. Makes one stop, reflect and reframe scenarios!
    I like your shift into this more sensitive arena Mike.


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