Since I came from my Study Abroad week in France 10 days ago, I have been on a mission. The mission is directly coming out from my Most Valuable Lesson Learned in France: I have been making a conscious effort to meet with people in informal settings over a meal or a drink, just to talk and learn more about each other.
Last Friday I managed to get the people in my office out for lunch. Not that we have not had lunches together before, but the pattern and participation rate are very spotty and inconsistent. This time I got the highest participation in about two months. I also scored a few “thank you” emails from colleagues after the lunch for taking the initiative and promoting it. So much about “leading without formal authority”.
I mentioned in my last post that three of us in my Business Communication class agreed to go out to the neighborhood bar on campus to have a drink and just chat after class this week. As I planned, I sent invitation to the whole class to join us. We ended up getting one RSVP confirming coming, who bailed out at the last moment. But another guy joined us at the last moment. So there were four of us, we had some good conversations, beer and light food. It was not too long either, somewhere around an hour and a half. But for me it was well worth it.
So here is the invitation (with minor redactions) I sent to my classmates, and now I am sending the message to you:
As part-time students most of us do not have enough time to learn about our classmates outside the classrooms, to have fun, and just get a shot at fostering lasting meaningful personal/business relationships that could continue after we graduate.
Part of it is our actual busy-ness due to juggling job, school, (family). Another part is due to the cultural predisposition to individualism, social apathy, laziness, and may be even fear of interactions with other people outside the formal prescribed frameworks.
In an attempt to at least somewhat overcome these constraints three of us: M, R, and Vit agreed to come out to Tonic (so masterfully praised by M in his impromptu speech in the first session) after class this Tuesday.
We want to extend this invitation to the rest of the class. It could be a good opportunity just to have fellowship and a few drinks, to learn more about each other in informal way.
We understand this is a short notice to adjust the schedule, and especially to undo the years of cultural baggage, but here it is – everyone is invited. If you have trouble justifying this time spent on socializing with your classmates, give it more business-like label – networking. Either way, we’ll be glad to see you there.
You may RSVP or decide at the last moment to join us – it’s OK as we don’t make special reservations and our class is quite small anyways.
One of the guys at the bar told me afterwards that the email was a bit harsh and could have turned off some people. But there was another response from my classmate that I would like to quote:
Thank you for sending this out! I have been thinking this way since I got to DC and wonder why none of the students want to go out after class.I would have joined you tonight, but I have a little bit of a cold… If you decide to grab drinks on another night, please let me know, I would love to join you!Thanks again for being brave enough [emphasized by me] to send this.
I was glad to receive this kind of encouragement and confirmation that I am not completely nuts after all, at least not the only one 😉 But what amazes me most is that you have to be “brave enough” to ask your classmates out after class. Something must be fundamentally wrong with the culture where simple joys of fellowship and camaraderie require extra courage.