The Community You Choose

Published: October 24, 2022

Eventually, everyone in your inner circle will say or do something that annoys you. Some will repeat these words and behaviors often enough to make you wonder why they’re still in your circle. Because a rich community requires diversity to survive, we don’t usually take the drastic route of cutting people out. In most cases, we’re left with the option to either tolerate or appreciate. When tensions are high, we tend to opt for tolerance. But, when we step back and look at the bigger picture, appreciation unfolds. Relationships, teams, neighborhoods, and communities are built on these responses. Let’s consider three examples and the lessons they teach.

  • A life-long friend is always late. There’s always a reason. It feels disrespectful. You take it personally. When you widen the lens, however, you can see that she is overextended. Everyone who needs a favor can count on her. She’s happy to help. Many of those favors have come your way over the years. Kindness and generosity are the motivations for her tardiness.
  • A long-term colleague is self-absorbed. He rarely asks about your challenges and filters all input as though he is the center of the universe. While he probably doesn’t recognize it, he comes off as needy. A workplace happy hour conversation unveils a trauma history. His hunger for care and compassion is bottomless. His desperation for attention alienates the very people from whom he most craves acknowledgement. We all carry burdens, but they’re not always visible.
  • A teammate on a creative project has a negative attitude. Whenever someone serves up a new idea, he shoots it down. He kills the buzz of every brainstorm session. Your team is made up of a blend of left-brain (logical/analytical) and right-brain (intuitive/creative) talent. Your downer teammate is doing what he is wired to do. Not all novel ideas can be engineered to work. While he might benefit from an attitude adjustment from a team culture perspective, the group relies heavily on his specialization.

The examples are endless, but they all have something important in common. In the precious and fleeting time we have on this planet, these are people we select to be in our community. For better or for worse. Of course, there is always an option to press the eject button on a relationship. Yet, connections tend to endure for reasons both conscious and unconscious. You have chosen them, and they have chosen you. The price you both pay for idiosyncrasies comes with the deal. It’s the community you choose.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.