Building community relationships: Part 3 - Communication and boundaries

The third and final article in a series on building community relationships.

If someone were to tell you to go into your community and start “building relationships,” you may feel overwhelmed and might even have a little anxiety. That’s a huge task! You may ask: Is there a manual for accomplishing that? Is there a how-to guide? Is there someone who can give me instructions? The answer to all of those questions is: No! However; there are some tips and tricks that may help you to build community relationships. In part one of this Michigan State University Extension series, Building community relationships: Definitions, we explored definitions related to building community relationships. In part two of this series, Building community relationships: Where to find partners, we looked at where we can go to find those community partners to begin building relationships with. We will now conclude this series by reviewing effective communication methods and healthy boundaries.

First, let’s explore some effective communication methods. Once you have established a relationship with a person or organization, find out what type of communication method works best for them. Also, find out what types of regular communication happen between that organization and the community. Facebook, e-newsletters, phone broadcast messages, radio spots, television and newspapers are all acceptable ways that organizations communicate with the community.

Two types of communication to consider are formal and informal. Formal communication often takes place in a way that is measurable. For example, how many posts were written on Facebook to announce an event, the number of newsletters mailed or e-mailed, or how many public service announcements or press releases went to community contacts.

Informal communication typically is not measurable and happens in a much more casual manner. Examples of informal communication include phone conversations, e-mails or dialogue at a meeting.

Regardless of what type of communication you are having with a person, organization or community contact, it is important to remember that you are representing your organization. Be sure to uphold the mission and vision of that organization. By remaining professional through formal and informal communications you help to gain integrity and build rapport for yourself and for your organization.

Now, let’s discover how to ensure you maintain healthy boundaries as you create that new and exciting partnership or relationship. Setting boundaries can be very helpful to ensure we don’t over commit ourselves by agreeing to do things we may not have time for. Boundaries set the standard for what is expected in the partnership or relationship. Boundaries are critical to the success of relationships and partnership because each party knows what the expectations are. Furthermore; they are able to determine whether or not they can live up to those expectations. By having a clear idea of what you’re seeking through partnerships before you go out seeking them, you are less likely to overextend yourself. When in doubt, it’s good to set limits you know you can live up to than to overextend yourself and promise something you cannot give. This lets your partners know what to expect and prevents them from being disappointed when you cannot do more.

Over this series of articles, we have explored many topics including:

  • Definitions: Community, relationship, partnership and action
  • Where to find partners: Look, ask questions, listen and get into the community
  • Communication methods: Formal versus informal
  • Boundaries: Creating clear expectations

Hopefully, you have found a few clever ways to build relationships in your community that will ultimately benefit your organization and the citizens within your community.

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