Hike it Baby events are always started with a Welcome Circle. We introduce ourselves by telling the group our name, our child(s) name and age(s), and where we live. This is meant to break the ice, put names to faces and to network–who knows, maybe another family lives right around the corner from you! It’s also a great way to avoid an embarrassing situation; forgetting another parent’s name or the name of their kiddo is embarrassing to admit, so by re-introducing yourselves every time you hike it helps to force those names to stick! All of this is great, but what if you flinch at the thought of a small group of people staring at you while you stumble out your introduction? Does this keep you from going to a Hike it Baby group outing? We hope it doesn’t stop you–we strive to make everyone feel included, and highly encourage a no judgement atmosphere. However, even knowing that, it can be hard to join in and many people may not understand why. Here is my story on how I’ve managed to overcome this hurdle.
When my son was a year old, we moved to a town that I had never stepped foot in before. I did not know a single person. I did know that I wanted to start a Hike it Baby Branch, and was certain it would be a great way to meet new families, and get my son and myself out of the house. I had done Hike it Baby hikes in Anchorage and never had a problem with the Welcome Circle or speaking to the group. Now, I felt a bit different. I would have to walk up to total strangers, tell them about HiB, and encourage (beg!!!) them to join the group–it was daunting. I was itching to hand out my newly printed business cards and to ask businesses if I could post my flyers on their bulletin boards. I would take multiple deep breaths, and with a shaking hand and voice I would approach these strangers in hopes of finding fast friends. Once I had handed over the card or explained what our group was, I could relax and later laugh at how nervous I had been. It did not seem to be getting any easier, though. I decided to conquer this with some techniques that are now a part of my every day routine.
I treat every interaction like a Welcome Circle. Your Welcome Circle introduction doesn’t change much. Apart from your child’s age, it’s “Hi! I’m So-and-So and this is So-and-So. He/she is this old. We live here.” This is when the person or audience reciprocates with their introduction. It may sound silly, but practicing this in the car, the shower, or while changing your little one’s diaper helps to make it ingrained in your brain and easy to use when you are floundering for words. Starting out a hike, promoting the group to others, or even beginning a news interview with the Welcome Circle introduction is the perfect way to begin on a high note with confidence, and continue the interaction knowing that the worst part is over!
Soon, I started noticing that I was using my Hike it Baby Welcome Circle introduction outside of Hike it Baby events. I know I’m not alone; many of our members also joke about doing this on a daily basis! Even better, our kids pick up on this. They can go up to a person, state their name and where they live with a confidence instilled by watching us do this regularly. What a great skill for them to possess, and they learn it from you!
I think the biggest revelation for me was knowing I am not alone; most people would rather be the person in the coffin rather than the person giving the eulogy. Being respectful of the person who is talking is important. Listen to everyone and try to store one piece of info about them in your brain. If eye contact is hard, you have a built-in excuse to look away, just keep your eyes on your little one. If you tend to break away from the group and try to hike by yourself to avoid awkward conversation, push yourself to seek out someone who appears to be the opposite. If you remember one thing about their Welcome Circle introduction, bring it up and leave the rest to them! “Hey, so I heard you say that you live here…” You will find that some people have that natural ability to talk about anything and make you feel comfortable, without forcing you to engage more than you feel like doing.
Maybe you have the personality that craves public speaking. Speaking to strangers and making friends is easy and fun for you. I implore you, use this gift well and help those like me to step out of our shells! Start easy, acknowledge the fact that we may not want to tell entire stories but we would love to hear yours! Connect with those of us who are quietly attending by using your exuberance to draw us in. Keep the conversation flowing, know when to move on and let us quietly absorb all that we are taking in. You will be the reason we keep coming back without dreading the social aspects of the hike–you may not realize the impact you can have with your outgoing acceptance. I had a very shy member join us on a hike once, her boyfriend introduced her and she barely spoke the entire hike. However, a few months later I read a comment she had posted on a different Facebook forum, stating that Hike it Baby is so awesome and can make you feel so welcome. It really touched my heart that we had an impact on her and I would have never known how much it if it weren’t for her post.
If I would have given in to my anxiety and shy away from Hike it Baby because of the Welcome Circle, I would be in a very different place. I still have to practice my introduction and take multiple breaths before handing out my cards. What is different is that I do this knowing that I am setting a good example for my son, I am increasing my circle of friends, and I am finding myself in a light I never thought possible. I now regularly ask the interview questions as well as answer others. I seek out the traits I know I am strong in, and proudly share them with a group, starting with my Welcome Circle introduction. How can a Welcome Circle change your life? You may find a life-long friend, help another parent learn a new trick, teach your child how to overcome social anxiety, find an amazing new trail or park, or maybe you will find yourself–and learn to share that self with people who will appreciate you for being you.
My name is Christel. My son is Sebastian and he is 2 years old. We live in Spearfish, SD. Thank you, Hike it Baby, for giving me such a great tool to use every day for the rest of my life.
Photo Credit: Tais Kulish / Hike it Baby
Christel Peters is a Branch Lead for Hike it Baby Spearfish and the Mama to Sebastian. When she isn’t chasing her adventurous toddler on the trails she is one of the Blog Editors for Hike it Baby. Do you have a story that should appear on our blog? Let us know!! email email@example.com with your submissions.