“I detect an accent”. “Where did you grow up?”. “Did you have to travel far?” Or, my favourite way to ask if you so must: “Where are you a local?” (check out the fabulous TED talk from Taiye Selasi on that).

Why does this matter? It seems to be a key aspect of forming a connection or trying to make sense of new people. What are we actually trying to do when we have these conversations? 

Close an open loop in our mind. Curiosity. Get travel tips. Trying to find a hitching post for the next instalment of small talk (Christmas markets in Bavaria/ the Red Sox / Georgian wine).

Intimacy (=familiarity) is one of the key building blocks of the trust equation (Maister, Green, Galford, consists of Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy with Self-interest as the draining factor below the line). Humans live in tribes, in communities. Meeting new people can feel risky so we are scanning for what is similar/familiar and therefore “OK”, or at least for a connection to something or someone not completely strange.

Is therefore this whole origin / home question our attempt to somehow crowdsource “who are you” and “are you friendly”? “Christine is a decent human. X people within radius Y agree” (oh god I hope so). If I get enough likes, am I in? (in what, exactly?) We use perceived proximity as a building block of trust, often used as a shortcut when a full due diligence is a bit unfeasible (if you want to see this urge for due diligence over-executed verging on the hilarious, try using dating apps…).

What do we base “inclusion” on, and what role does building trust play in it? If some things are no longer obviously immediately local like in the village I grew up in, how can we build that trust (both ways)? And how can we help others with this? And where is the where where we are doing this if this is not a physical address? Musings of a a cosmopolitan – certainly not a “citizen of nowhere”.

How are you making the tension between the local and the international work? How do you build trust in a largely virtual community? How do you build trust to have the critical conversations needed for true inclusion?


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