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Community Building

Community Building

Hello and good day!

Did you ever take the Myers Briggs personality test? I've taken it several times over the years. I first read about it in a business book. The author was a super successful businessman who had all of his team members take the test.

He kept the results on file and reviewed them regularly. This helped him deal with each individual in a way that was specifically suited to their personality. He described the test results as being eerily accurate.

That has been my experience with the test as well. My brother and I have tested over and again as dyed in the wool introverts. Yet, if you met either of us, you'd find us to be very friendly and outgoing.

I spend most afternoons walking around talking to people or serving customers in our chocolate shops. I've come to deeply cherish these activities.

My brother lived in the Peruvian jungle for ten years, enmeshed in a small community of cacao farm families.

We both spend a lot of time around people, and we like it. How can this be true of two men who are natural born introverts .  Being an introvert means that your inclination is to be alone with your thoughts. That is how you feel most comfortable and that is when your battery charges.

To be extroverted means the opposite. You feel more comfortable in groups and your battery charges through interacting with others.

For more than a decade, I did behind the scenes accounting, logistics, and office management work for our chocolate business and that suited me just fine. I learned to become a very effective salesman over the years as well, but that was more of a challenge.

Turns out that being a good listener really helps in selling and that was a big advantage for me. But you still have to pick up the phone and make the call to get yourself in a conversation in the first place.

I had to overcome that.

Anyhow, here is the point of all this.

Over the last couple of years, I've been able to get my head around what makes a community work well. Have you noticed that certain places have a very positive and friendly vibe? Everybody smiles and says hi. People wave at you from the sidewalk when you drive by. If you ask somebody for directions, they throw in a restaurant recommendation as well.

Meanwhile, other places are dead and cold, and you just want to get out of there as soon as possible.  

How does this work? What is the key to building and maintaining a vibrant community?

It seems to me that the most important lever is an introvert's nightmare. Everybody needs to be in each other's business. For most of my life, I've kept my thoughts and feelings to myself. I've run them over in my head and resolved them on my own and that has worked well.

Likewise, I've never wanted to know much about other people's issues. I've always hated gossip. I've avoided drama at all costs. When somebody began to rattle on about their problems, I've rolled out the "uh-huhs" and looked for a way to make a quick exit.   Likewise, I've steered clear of braggarts and boasters, preferring not to hear my neighbors make elevated claims about themselves.

But now I'm coming to realize that all the things I've been avoiding are the very stuff of life. And the more that community members know about each other, the better the vibe in the community will be.

Here is an example of this.

I got to talking with a customer in the chocolate shop yesterday. He just bought his first new car. He is around my age and has always bought used cars. He was so excited and wanted to give me all the details.

It is a 2023 Cadilac. He opted for the turbo which gives him 750 horsepower, whatever that means.

I'm not a car guy at all. I tend towards extreme minimalism when it comes to material possessions. My natural introvert tendency was to say, "that is great man. Thanks for your business. Have a good day." Instead, I asked him to take me outside and show me the car.

"Come on!" he said. He walked me around the outside of his new baby, pointing out every detail. He asked me if I wanted to sit inside and feel the leather interior.

I did that too.

Then he asked me if I wanted to drive it. You drive a stick?" he asked. "It's been a while, but I think I can manage," I said. "Let's do it!" he said. While I drove his new car for ten minutes, he told me about his wife and kids and business.

He has twin one year old sons and he isn't sleeping much. He told me about his service in the Iraq war. He told me about tax problems with the IRS. Nothing major, just something he is dealing with. He told me everything.

I listened and we had a nice ten minutes together.

Later that day, maybe three hours later, he came back to our center to go to the bank. I was down at the other end of the walk way when I saw him and he saw me.

"Adam! What's up!" he yelled. "What's up bro!" I yelled back.

We walked towards each other, slapped a handshake, and gave each other a man hug. "Back so soon?" I asked. "I have some bills to pay," he smiled. "See you around dude," I said. "I'll always look forward to it," he said.

That's the vibe a community wants to have. People know each other and are happy to see one another. I have so many more examples of this.

Kids getting straight A's who want a high five.

Middle-aged neighbors whose parents have dementia.

Widowers who just lost their husbands.

Youngsters fired from their first job.

Cancer survivors.

Promotions at work.

Sold a business and just struck it rich.

Little league champions.

I wish I would have learned this particular lesson so much earlier in life. My wiring has kept me from forming a lot of good relationships over the years and doing some good in the community. Now that I know, I can make up for lost time.

Here is the phrase that pays.

"How have you been?"

And then.

"Really? Tell me more."

The expression that kills communities is this.

"I don't want to pry."

Go ahead and pry. Most people have something they are dying to share.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!