Some neighbors are easy to connect with. You know the kind - the really outgoing, extroverted, highly social ones who aren't afraid to simply show up to an event.
But we don't want to just build community with them... we want to make all of our neighbors feel connected and welcomed. For those shy, harder-to-reach neighbors, you may have to be more intentional, but it's well worth it.
Start where people are
Begin with the kind of community you have. If it's not engaged yet, that's okay. Take what you have to work with and don't get bogged down with how you want it to look. While our ultimate goal is a strong, inclusive, deep community, it takes time to get there. And that's okay. Figure out where people are and relate to that.
If you have members of your community who are from a different culture or religion, try to connect them with individuals who are from similar cultures. Invite them all over for dinner, a smaller setting and potentially less intimidating than a large event, to introduce them to one another. This can be a great opportunity for you to get to know all of them better as well.
Make yourself visible
If you live in a neighborhood, hang out in your front yard. If you're in an apartment community, hang out in shared spaces. Walk your dog, read a book in the clubhouse, or start an evening stroll at the same time every night, so that you have opportunities for your neighbors to see you and meet you. Be intentional about finding ways to be visible to your neighbors, so that when it's time to connect, you're already a familiar face.
If you have kids or a pet, use them as ice breakers.
Find out what people love, what they are passionate about, and what motivates them
Then, connect them with these things. If they love a type of food, incorporate it into your next event in an effort to help them feel more comfortable attending. Create smaller events or classes based around shared interests or hobbies - things like book clubs, craft nights, or a walking group. Some people don't love parties, but they'll come to something based around a shared interest.
Make sure your events are diverse - don't just plan things you'll love, but make sure you're engaging different demographics within your neighborhood or apartment community. Also make sure you offer food options for people with dietary restrictions, whether those are religious or for other reasons (here's a chart that might help, but when in doubt, do more research).
Engage your introverted neighbors with community service events
If you have a particularly shy or introverted individual you are trying to engage, they may respond better to community service events, especially if they have a particular task to do. Maybe they are an expert organizer or designer. Host an event where several residents who specialize in things can come showcase their skills. They can set up booths and invite other residents to visit and find out tips for organizing, or graphic design, or goal setting. Or maybe your resident loves to work on cars — host a car care event and let your resident take the lead.
You can also use surveys to find out which community issues or nonprofits your residents are most passionate about and partner with those organizations for a service project. Collect school supplies for your nearby elementary school or host a coat drive in the winter. You don't have to think of all the ideas - engage your neighbors and find out what gets them energized.
Keep people involved
Give your neighbors a reason to keep coming back to your events. Connect like-minded people with one another so those relationships can turn into friendships. Engage in genuine conversation to connect with individuals on a deeper level. Invite people who enjoy having a job to do to help with your events. And be sure to connect with them on social media so you can stay connected and invite them to your next get-together!
What's your best advice to someone who is new at neighboring? Leave us a comment below!