I have been to a good many munches in my time. Most of these have been very open, welcoming, and usually unstructured. The result was that sometimes these were really great experiences in getting to know a local community with warmth and openness, while at other times it was a chaotic disaster with obvious frustrations by organizers, attendees, and venue employees all around. If the purpose of a munch is to help new folks connect and learn about the local scene and its people, then as organizers we have to do as much as we can to facilitate that outcome. So it is through personal experience and my professional life that I believe in the value of using House Rules for a munch.
Common Sense is Neither
I have often said that “policy exists where sense is lacking” – and it’s not hard to see where sense is lacking, just look at People of Walmart as evidence “A”. Common sense is rarely ever common, and what most do is rarely that which makes much sense. Even in a lifestyle that prides itself on awareness and communication, there is a shocking degree of dysfunction out in the general public that it will eventually find its way in. Be it because one is new, due to some social challenges, or just plain willful ignorance and disrespect – shit happens.
We cannot hand-hold everyone, we cannot coach and mentor someone every step of the way. Personally, I believe that attempting to do so is exactly what helps create the problem – an expectation that we are excused from stupidity unless directly coached and led to otherwise. As such, it’s good to remind people of some common sense forms of social etiquette and behavior through the use of House Rules.
House Rules provide a guideline of expectations in terms of what someone will be experiencing as well as how to conduct themselves. Think of them as a series of common sense protocols that shouldn’t have to be stated, but clearly need to be so Everyone is on the same page. This helps to manage expectations, and provides a uniform mechanism to guide judgments without it being viewed as something personal. In this way we take an active role in communicating a communities expectations, and in facilitating decisions and consequences for the exceptions. After that, it’s up to each individual to self-manage appropriately or be subject to the policies as clearly stated.
The below is an example of house rules which I use for one of the facilitated munch groups. Allow it to serve as a potential recommendation or food for thought as something to be included in the munches you manage or attend.
House Rules: Introduction
The following munch rules are expected to be adhered to at all times, be you a regular or new to the group. If you attend the munch it will be assumed you have read and are familiar with these rules and accept the terms. While we enjoy light social engagement & humor, these rules are to be taken with seriousness. Violations will result in warning or banning, at the Host’s discretion.
Our head count is based on emailed RSVP’s only. This helps ensure your host(s) and the venue are adequately prepared to accommodate you. We also maintain a maximum seating cap of 40 to facilitate manageability of the group and wait staff.
If your RSVP is not received in time, there is a risk of being turned away (once seat count is in, staff and space is planned accordingly). Any RSVPs received after that may be put on a wait list if a seat opens up.
So why advocate for House Rules? For one, I’m not saying “Do this or else” – but rather sharing what seems to have worked for our locality and has been supported by the vast majority of active community. I know that, if nothing else, its addressing common concerns which are making people feel safer. This is especially true for those new to the scene or are reemerging after a long period of inactivity. This is not speculation, we’ve been told by many that they chose our munch specifically due the clear organization and house rules that they felt safe or comfortable in attending.
Fact: experiencing vulnerability is accompanied by defensive response to close off and protect oneself and prime for fight/flight/freeze behaviors. When we address perceived vulnerability (anxiety, fear, insecurity, etc) we allow people to be more open to new experiences and learning. Since being open to experiences and interactions is a core benefit and value of the scene, isn’t that something we should actively try to facilitate?
Furthermore, those that strongly resist supporting house rules usually do so because it works against their modus operandi, to subvert or manipulate rules in their favor. Those that usually have the most vocal resistance are also, not surprisingly, those seeking to take advantage of others and neatly fall into the “undesirables” category of predators, abusers, stalkers, creepers and the like.
By adopting similar rules the more we actually behave as a community by sharing and acting on common values. A community becomes cohesive the more we walk the talk; and in a similar vein, the more likely responsible behavior will be demonstrated with the outliers (unwilling or unable) will be excluded before they get entrenched and larger problems emerge.
Copyright 2018 Limits Unleashed