As a trip leader, I meet twenty new people every 2-3 weeks. I spend 18-20 hours with them daily for 7 days. When you spend so much time with people, you observe certain patterns, and swiftly figure out behaviour.
By the time I have seen everyone at the airport, I am fairly sure I know who would be the introverts or the socially awkward ones. In my head over the next two days, I am already conjuring ways to make them feel included.
Its easier to figure out people who have baggage, specially cos baggage is mostly only due to 3-4 reasons – relationship problems, traumatic childhood, lack of freedom from family. People who have baggage, I can spot very fast even if we don’t have any earlier conversations around the same, because their layers show up. People who are genuinely happy are far more difficult to see through because their layers are less.
It helps a trip leader immensely if they read people well, because you have the potential to handle them better. With years of doing so, comes experience, and you also have the opportunity to help them subtly in ways even if you don’t spell it out explicitly. Its important to help,& equally important to not unnerve or overwhelm them. There’s a thin line between encouragement & being preachy.
We have seen so many boys and girls be less shy, be more confident, talk a lot more when they returned for more trips, as compared to their 1st trip.
Empathy and spreading joy generally throughout the group can be effective tools in uplifting people. Empowering others to motivate, encourage, cheer, hug someone unsure, is also valuable. Often when we see someone sharing something emotional or breaking down, we encourage others to go hug them, hold them. I usually ask someone who isn’t physically expressive to hug them. And when I see them doing it on some other trip, this time by themselves, it makes me smile.
Doing all this subtly is the key. A leader doesn’t have to always be centrestage to get the best out of his people.
And so, I, we learn more and more about being with people as I keep leading trips and travelling.