We lived in an apartment in Dallas. At first we were outgoing–trying to introduce ourselves to our neighbors, trying to remember their names, greeting with eye contact and smiles.
But then we noticed that we seemed to be the only ones renewing our lease. Nearly all the neighbors we met moved out ten months later.
This was deeply puzzling. We liked the complex, and the people living there seemed to like it too.
I suspect this was mostly demographic–lots of young professionals who were in transition–which meant they were highly mobile–which meant lots of turnover.
When the new people moved in, we noticed ourselves making less of an effort to get to know them. Why bother? They won’t be here in a year.
Simultaneously, I noticed something similar in my new role as a surgical nurse at the hospital. There was a certain amount of turnover–temporary staff; people moving out of the city to suburban jobs with shorter commutes; folks leaving to pursue school; etc. When I was new, I noticed that some of the veterans who had been there for decades seemed a bit aloof–not as eager to remember this newcomer’s name as I was to make friends.
Three years later, however, something changed. Those guarded veterans decided I was probably not temporary staff, and might be worth the work to get to know–especially if we were going to see each other everyday in the lunchroom.
First: Resist the urge to shut down your friendliness to newcomers. Sure a certain amount, maybe even a lot of folks, will move on. But you don’t know for sure who will stick around, and they will forever remember that you were early to befriend them.
Second: Don’t be discouraged if you’re not embraced right away by people who have been there for a long time. This isn’t college where relationships are on an accelerated timeline because we’re living together in dorms. It may take years before some of the veterans will know your name. In the meantime, stay warm and friendly and resist the urge to believe that something is wrong with you (or them). Likely, they’re saving their relational energy for folks who have been there for awhile. Be patient, and you’ll reap the rewards.