In a lot of our local school they have adopted the “friendship bench” or a “buddy bench”
This bench is a special bench situated in the playground where children can go when they have no one to play with and feeling lonely. All the other children are encouraged when they see someone sitting on the bench to go over and offer some support and friendship, to sit and chat or to ask the child to come and play.
I think this is a fantastic idea, and it teaches children to think of others.
Asked by one of the children they explained how it works….. he said “its where, if you can’t find your best friends and you don’t know where to go and play, you sit on the friendship/buddy bench and someone will come and find you and they will include you in their game” Another child agreed that the bench helps to ‘find friends easily when you are lonely and you don’t have anyone to play with’.
Fast forward to adulthood. Have you ever been in a situation whereby a friendship bench could have been a lifesaver for you? Maybe not the actually bench but having the hand of friendship being offered.
Have you ever started a new job and felt so alone, not included and that feeling of dread often being left on your own at break time? This is particularly difficult for people who do temporary work.
Have you ever been at a meeting where you feel that everyone knows someone except you?
Have you ever been involved in a large group and you seem to be the only person there on your own?
I am sure that you quite possibly might have been in this situation at some point in your life.
Some people are comfortable at mixing with strangers and find it easy to walk up and introduce themselves and start chatting to another person, or even a group of people. But there are many that haven’t got the confidence to do this, perhaps they might be shy, lack confidence or just feel that they are not good enough to be there for whatever reason.
What do you do when you are presented with a situation that puts you in a large group of people who you don’t know?
I am a generally a friendly person and will chat to anyone. I am one of these people who will start a conversation at a bus stop rather than stand in silence. If I am on my own I will look to see if there is another person standing on their own and go over and chat to them. If I approach a group I just smile and stand on the edge of the group until there is an opening for me to speak. This is harder to do, but I would rather do this than stand on my own.
So how can you look out for those that need that hand of friendship.
Always welcome a new member of staff and include them in the work place as much as you can. Try and arrange that they have someone with them at tea breaks or lunch breaks. Introduce them to other members of staff – even those that might not be in your department. Making someone feel welcome is a massive step towards someone feeling confident in their new role.
At a meeting, you might be aware that it is someone’s first time there. It is important for them to be made welcome and know of any procedures that may be required. People often worry about not knowing what is expected from them and that is a reason for nerves to set in, or mistakes to be made or simply them not taking part in the meeting.
If the occasion is bigger such as a conference look out for those people standing on their own. Go and chat to them or offer them to come and join your group. They well might be waiting on others coming and decline your offer, but you at least have asked.
If you a Manager and a new person starts its your responsibility to ensure that the “new person” is made to be felt welcome. If you can’t do it personally then ensure that they have someone who will mentor them and that they have someone they can go to. Often new people get “forgotten” in the busy day and that can be very scary.
If you are organising a training session or meeting try to include everyone and make them feel part of the group. I always make sure that I am there to personally meet everyone and chat to them on arrival.
Someone once said …… “There are times in my life when I could use a friendship bench. People of all ages are lonely at times. It’s a simple, transformative idea”
It can often take a lot for someone to go alone, the hand of friendship can be change so much.
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