There are two kinds of social environments.
Those which are autonomy-supportive and those which are autonomy-thwarting.
You experienced plenty of thwarting environments in school. You were pressured to act like everyone else. You couldn’t be too smart. You couldn’t act the way you really wanted to because you would suffer social consequences. You were controlled by teachers and students.
This might happen at work too. You’re paid to do the things you wouldn’t like to do. You’re punished if you’re not fired. You’re rewarded if you do those tasks well. This is all control.
You hopefully experienced supportive environments in your family unit. Your parents and siblings encouraged you and pushed you to explore your own interests. They hopefully didn’t withhold emotional or physical support if you didn’t act how they wanted.
A difficult part of building a social group is creating an autonomy-supportive environment.
This is an environment where people support one another to achieve their goals. It’s an environment where members are encouraged (and pushed) to share their values, fears, and ambitions – where others can help them overcome their fears and achieve their goals.
This is really difficult to do.
It’s difficult because members need to feel comfortable being vulnerable to a group of people on the internet (or, perhaps worse, in the room). They need to feel they won’t be mocked or suffer any social consequences. They need to feel they won’t be judged because their goals are unique to them.
[tweet_dis]In internal communities, many people don’t participate because they’re worried how it looks to appear not to know something.[/tweet_dis]
This means (ironically, perhaps) you need to enforce rules that members will not mock or criticise any other member for sharing an internal fear, belief, or ambition. It means establishing expectations from all members that we will be open and honest with one another and this will be reciprocated from all members of the group.
It also means that you personally need to push people in your own replies.
A member might want help to draw scatter graphs in excel. They might also be worried about looking bad in front of their team.
Is the best value to this member helping them draw a graph or the community banding together to explain how to look good in front of their colleagues? I suspect it’s the latter. If you and others can push someone to open up and reveal that you can have incredibly powerful conversations.
That means pushing members to be a little more forthcoming. Don’t just answer the question, resolve the problem.
It means replying to discussions to find out more information and get to the real core of what they’re worried or hopeful about.
The challenge for you is to get members gradually to that level. It won’t happen overnight.
Use some of the tactics here. Create a profile field where people can highlight their goals. Ask in discussions about fears/challenges. Pry for a little more ‘why’ in your own responses. Tell members they can’t mock others for sharing their true thoughts if they don’t also share them. Begin creating the expectations of open-honesty with newcomers sharing their goals/ambitions. It soon becomes a tradition.
We can make the internet a place for people to get the support online that they can’t get elsewhere in their lives. That’s definitely work worth doing.
Quick reminder: We’re hosting SPRINT: San Francisco on Nov 11 – 12. We’re going to push deep into the psychology of members and show you sharpen every weapon in your community arsenal to be as effective and successful as you can be. These tools are universally applicable across all types of communities. If you want to get really good, really fast, I hope you will join us.
Prices go up at the end of this week: http://sprint.feverbee.com.