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When Excluded, Ask the Question
Few things bother people more than not being included when they think they should be.
When others don’t invite them to an important meeting, they aren’t asked their opinion, or they are left off a critical email chain, paranoia can take hold. What message is being sent to me? What did I do to get excluded?
The most likely reason for not being included in an important exchange or meeting is oversight. In more cases than not, colleagues are left out because of an unintended omission.
The real failure is not being excluded, but not asking why. Asking the simple question about the rationale for exclusion often uncovers an innocent mistake. When the reason is more substantive, it is essential to understand why.
Instead, once feelings are hurt and suspicion sets in, excluded parties act on their distaste. Giving the decision-maker the cold shoulder or less commitment going forward is the immature response. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, presumption first blinds a person and then “sets them a running.”
Colleagues who presume positive intent always ask the question as to why they weren’t included. They make it a rule not to spin like a top because they are mistrustful of what is really going on. They simply ask the question.
Speaking up and inquiring as to the reason for being left out is not a trivial matter. We all have a need to feel seen, welcome, and important to those we work with. Being disregarded, even in a single instance, can cut like a knife.
There is nothing wrong with a strong, emotional reaction to being excluded. The problem arises when we presume there is a secret message in the choice. There rarely is. Knowing always solves the problem and sets the record straight.
Make it a habit to ask, “Why was I not included?” The answer is likely to be more confirming than the conjecture.