Last night, I attended the ABWA Maia chapter meeting in Ann Arbor to hear my friend and client Alisa Peskin-Shepherd speak about compassionate negotiation. Using her experience and training as a mediator and family law attorney, she explained tips and techniques for negotiating in every aspect of our work and personal lives and did a stellar job presenting.
I’ve been speaking a lot over the past year – with much more to come in the year ahead – and as usual, I’m noticing interesting details about the groups I am getting to know. I’m booking clients, too, before these professional groups and creative gatherings and we’re seeing some interesting lessons and trends.
First, what is ABWA? Short for American Business Women’s Association, the national group has individual chapters that draw healthy crowds to monthly gatherings. They often have a speaker to present and conduct a chapter meeting, discussing efforts and events on the horizon.
This chapter drew a crowd of about 30 last night, for dinner, networking and connection. There was a lot of talk about the Leadership Day set for June 21st in Ann Arbor (I’m a speaker – you should come! Here’s the link.) and also about the national ABWA conference in Kansas in October.
Here’s what I heard from the women about what they gain from membership in ABWA:
A sense of belonging.
I find this so interesting! When I spoke to EWI last week, I heard the same. One woman remarked about how it was her EWI relationships that helped her figure out how to care for an ailing mother.
Groups like these – and add to the list NAWBO, Inforum and others – provide a sense of community and connection that I’ve long said we do not automatically have these days. We have the illusion of being so connected but really we are more alone than ever.
It takes a lot of effort to pick up after a long work day and go to a dinner. It would be so much easier to simply go home, take off your shoes and pour a glass of wine to sip in front of the TV or on the deck.
The women who attend these groups – and there are more, for men and for both genders together – do so to find the relationships we need to build a satisfying life. We need to feel like we matter and like there are people who care for us and for whom we care deeply and share common ground.
Everyone needs this.
So my question is, how do the people not affiliated with any of these groups find their connections? What is their community? Is it a geographical thing, found in the neighborhoods where they live, or their children’s schools?
Because the attendance, while amazing at the ABWA chapters I’ve visited, isn’t always so healthy for other groups. And even then, we’re talking a drop in the bucket of the overall population.
We all need to feel connection, camaraderie and concern. We all need to believe we matter. Because we do.
But if there’s no one on the other side of the conversation to nod attentively or look straight into your eyes and smile, how would you ever know it?