The Transition Network

New York City Chapter

Excluded? Let’s Talk!

(Posted May 1, 2021)

By Nancy Gold,

The more things change, the less they do. Remember junior high school and the popular crowd? Remember cliques? Remember how glad you were to graduate and have the chance to reinvent yourself? Now you are all grown up and you thought things would be different. Times may change but people and circumstances are still the same.

What to do?
You are older and wiser now. You feel free to pick your friends and stay away from people who do not make you happy. You still have to interact with groups and navigate “politics.” Politics here means the interaction of people in a small living group, condo, tennis group. You get the idea.

Let me set the stage for our special challenge and how we overcame it. This may help you in the future. A few weeks ago I came back after 14 months to my second home. Friends of mine in my building asked me over for dinner, so nice. As we sat down to catch up, one of my friends said that she felt alienated by the people that used the common pool and lived in our building.  I told her that I was quite amazed as she had lived in this condo for over 15 years, her husband was the former president of the home owners’ association and he even organized happy hours for 50 or more people every Tuesday night at local restaurants. She seemed very well connected.

My friend, let’s call her Sally, said that she had seen a group of people, about 25 down by the pool, eating dinner at a long table one late afternoon and they seemed to be celebrating something or someone. She and another girlfriend had gone down together to investigate. When they got there, they knew just about everyone present. The group said would you like to join us. They demurred. My friend Sally said thank you but we feel it would be wrong because we were not invited initially. We do not want to impose.  The second woman was a bit more frank. She said how sad it was that the group had not been more inclusive, citing gatherings that she had organized in the past.

Sally asked me as we sat down for our dinner if I thought she had offended these people who lived in the same building and were at the party. She said I know that I do not always hear the local gossip or what is going on in the community because I have to stay out of the sun. I cannot hang out at the pool which is the local gathering place. Sally was telling me how hurt she was. I said it sounds like we are back in junior high school again. Let’s figure what to do.

Sally and I live on the 4th floor of a condo building with 5 floors and 5 apartments per floor. We have all the email addresses of the people in the building. I decided that what we would do is turn the tables a bit. Sally and I sent out an email to the 5 people who lived on the 5th floor and invited them to a “Monday night BYOC (being your own cocktail) to the 4th floor lobby area.” The email read “Hello! Sally and I thought it would be fun to invite the 5th floor people to the 4th floor as a way to meet/remeet neighbors old and new. Please let us know if you will join us! Thanks, Sally and Nancy”. 

Lo and behold! Four out of five apartments responded yes and what can we bring. We had a great time getting to know the people on the 5th floor better in this small group setting. Right in the middle of our party first party for the 5th floor, some people from the first floor (the popular crowd) walked off the elevator and were surprised to see the gathering. We invited them to join us. They said no. I said no problem. We will be sending an invitation to each floor each week. Smiles all around.

What was the reasoning behind this? Politics. Here is how we played it. We emailed everyone on the same floor. Each week the 4th floor invited the 5th floor, then the third floor , then the second floor and finally the first floor. No one could say they were excluded. Some were out of town. To those people we sent an email back that we would look forward to seeing them next time. Some did not respond at all. That’s fine (and shame on you.) Some I held my breath on because I preferred that they not come. All the rest said thank you so much for organizing this. 

There you have it. Fight exclusivity with inclusivity done in a polite way. Be the one to set a positive example. We still have not invited the first floor yet but we will. I will fill you in next time how that worked out. The people on the first floor are kind of the popular crowd which is fine by me. Maybe next time Sally and I will be included in one of the gatherings at the pool and if we are not, we can always go back to the floor by floor BYOC idea.

This same idea is translatable to a NYC situation. Get to know the people on your floor. Maybe have covid cocktails out in the hall way. Ask other people up from another floor. My condo is lucky enough to have a concrete backyard area behind out building. There is a little garden there. We are in the middle of sprucing it up with voluntary funds. When it is all done, we are going to have a wine and cheese party (post vaccination and hopefully no rain) to thank those who donated and to celebrate spring, us and everything positive.

Now it is your turn. How did you change the trajectory of an uncomfortable social situation? Tell us your solution, your challenging circumstances and I will summarize them for our responding article. Remember, we are older, wiser and know that kindness and inclusivity works.


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Material from, 20:20:30 September 16, 2021.
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