I don’t know why I never figured this out before, but after five days of super-connecting with some incredible people at The World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon last weekend something became obvious to me, and it’s this: ANYONE can connect with people, anytime, anywhere… And before someone screams “Whoa, hold on a minute, not everybody’s as outgoing as some clown-wig-wearing-weirdo!” I ask that you hear me out, okay?
What I actually learned this past week is that as long as people follow a few basic strategies, anyone – both introverts and extroverts – can reach out and meet some pretty incredible people. The problem lies in the fact that some folks don’t engage with strangers because they’ve convinced themselves that they “don’t have what it takes to say hi”, “are too shy to approach people” or “are nervous around strangers” and therefore the very idea is off limits to them. But here’s what these folks don’t realize: Most of us feel this way, even if it’s just a little – I know I sure do! (Yes, really, I do) But the difference between those who do and those who don’t is this: It’s that one set of people allow these feelings to control them, while the other set recognizes them, says “Fuck it” and then moves forward with a bunch of “Hi, How are ya?!”s anyway.
Trust Me, I Get It…
Look, I get it: I understand that for many people, boldly approaching strangers is a fear-inducing-anxiety-filled-panic experience; I watch Tristan go through this on a daily basis. But as I gently try to show him, the reasoning behind these feelings is often misguided, and here’s why: Because people genuinely want to meet and get to know each other; but these connections can’t happen if only one side participates. Here’s what I mean:
On day four of WDS, we attended a little meet-up of about 16 people, and were immediately asked to choose partners and talk to them; so far, so good. Then towards the end of the meeting one lady quietly raised her hand and meekly said “You know what? I’ve been here four days and that’s the first time I’ve spoken to anyone”. Hearing this I immediately got up, went over and introduced myself, and then gave her a hug. When I was done, the person next to me did the same; and so on, and so on until every single person there gave this woman some personal love and attention she (and we all) craves so badly. By the last hug she had tears streaming down her face, and had 15 new friends who she could talk to and share her story with.
But here’s the thing: Why did she wait until 80% of this event was over to reach out? An event that’s a global gathering of 3,000 people from 32 countries for which she bought a ticket for months ago to presumably surround herself with like-minded folks? Why would’t she – or other folks in similar boats – take full advantage of such opportunities? What made her (and others) so afraid to approach people? I think it’s because many people don’t realize that connecting with strangers is a learnable skill; a skill that if learned even just a little bit by taking baby steps, has the ability to over-ride fear, anxiety and shyness. And so my goal in this post is to offer a few tips on how ANYONE can put themselves out there and meet other people in any social situation, regardless of these things. But first, I have a confession…
Forgive Me Father, For I Have a Confession…
Most people that know me think that I’m “on” all the time; you know, the brash, fun loving crazy “people person”. But believe it or not, I’m absolutely NOT; in fact, I regularly force myself to initiate first contact with strangers much more than they realize. And yes, despite being a spot-on Brad Pitt doppelgänger, I too have insecurities, fears and anxious moments when I’m around new people.
But the difference is I’ve discovered a few “tricks” to challenge these feelings, which has resulted in me being able to connect with strangers at pretty much any social function. And don’t worry, there’s no voodoo, witchcraft, or “eye of newt” involved; just a few simple strategies that ANYONE can apply, as long as they are prepared to step out of their comfort zone a little bit at a time, in exchange for some creating some pretty awesome connections.
Will these strategies take away the fear? No. The anxiety. No. The shyness? Absolutely not. They aren’t supposed to. What they ARE meant to do is to help folks accept that these things will always be a part of the “meeting strangers” equation; and once accepted, all we need to do is – as Susan Jeffers says in her book titled – “Feel the fear and do it anyway”.
Trust me when I say once you make peace with this fact, you will be able to move forward light years in your quest for meeting people. And remember, the key is baby steps, as in trying this on one person at a time rather than slaying the whole room in one sitting; believe me, that would freak anybody out! And before we get to the ten strategies, let me tell you that the one thing that helped me more than anything was the book I just mentioned. The title is the link, so seriously, check it out!
So without further adieu, here are…
Ten Ways Anyone (I Mean ANYONE) Can Initiate Conversations With Strangers
ALWAYS Talk To The Person Sitting/StandingNext To You, Even If It’s Just Saying “Hi”: How many of us have suffered through long plane rides or grocery store line ups quietly ignoring all the people around us? I’ve been guilty of this, and frankly, it’s dumb and ridiculous. Say hello! Be polite and friendly! Saying “Hello” to the person sitting/standing next to you on a flight doesn’t mean you are married to them, nor that you need to converse for the next four hours; it means you are friendly and open to a conversation. Besides, if you don’t say “Hello”, how can you ever find out how to be of service to one another? You can’t! So just listen to Nike and “Just Do It”… besides, what’s the worst that can happen?
Be Genuinely Interested In Other People: To initiate conversation, try asking opened-ended questions, ones that require answers other than “yes” or “no”; for example “Where do you live?” followed by something like “I’ve not been there – what’s it like?” Once they’ve answered, and asked you the same, guess what? You will be having a conversation with a stranger! Sure beats the crickets you hear from asking things like “Nice day, eh?”
Remember That Just Like You, Everyone Has a Story: More important to remember, we all want our stories to be heard; this is why one of the most powerful things we can do is to ask people about themselves, and then listen to what they say. Doubly important is not to be judgemental of others; because as Arthur’s story proves, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.
Be Proud to Tell People About Your (True) Self; Never, Ever Use Flattery To Try and Win Them Over: Nobody likes the bullshit route, because it’s, well, bullshit. Be proud of who you are, and what you do, regardless of whatever it is. By the same token, don’t try and sound better than you really are, (Braggart: “I’m lead consultant for a high-level group of entrepreneurs who are creating and managing levels of wealth through blah-blah-blah…” You: “I thought you sold Amway?” Braggart: “I do!“) The fact is that if you read articles like this, you have a lot to offer, and don’t need to try and be someone you aren’t yet. You are awesome the way you are RIGHT NOW; and the best part is we all know you’ll be even bigger and better next year!
The same goes for flattery; NEVER say “Oh, I like your hair” if you don’t – find something genuine to talk about, and keep the conversation real – you know, “Honesty is the best policy” and all that. Just remember to always, always always be your authentic self – because honestly, it’s the very best person you can be. Besides, everyone else is taken.
Oh, and if someone is judgemental of you, or what you do (i.e. “So, you sell Amway for a living? Really?”) you’ll quickly understand that this probably isn’t someone you want in your life, so be grateful they showed their true colours quickly and move on.
Smile. A. LOT. ‘Nuff said. Trust Karl and me on this one~!
Say “Hi” to Everyone You Make Eye-Contact With: And I mean EVERYONE, even if it’s just walking down the street, in the line up at the grocery store or at the movie theater, just say “Hi” to that random stranger standing next to you. Even if that’s all that you say, it helps you get comfortable with saying that first “Hi” when the time comes for the big leagues. Truthfully, I make it a habit to say “Hi” to every stranger I run into for that very reason – it keeps me well practiced for big events like WDS!
Baby Steps Are The Key: A wise friend of mine told me that this is all well and good, but I missed a key point – and he nailed it! (Thanks Kevin!) As mentioned, the key isn’t to try and slay a whole room at once, but rather just introduce yourself to one person at a time to get used to the process. Meeting people is hard, and it takes work – but with a little push from your subconscious, you can do it, especially by using the strategies here to make it easier. Remember, if this makes you uncomfortable, take baby steps – but make sure you add one or two more each time.
Don’t Wait For a “Good Time” to Say Hello – Jump Right In: Probably the most important way to overcome this fear is akin to ripping off a band-aid – when someone is in front of you, just stick out your hand and say “Hi!” and then see where it goes. I’ve been told that if we wait longer than three seconds to introduce ourselves we’ll begin to overthink this decision. Now let’s be honest, three seconds isn’t very much time – but it is the perfect amount to stop us from convincing ourselves that we’re subjecting our frail egos to horrific embarrassment and a the devastating lack of worth we’ll receive if we don’t just go for it. Besides, we all know those crazy ideas are just in our heads, right?
Always Follow Up: When you do make a solid friendship connection, make sure you follow up with more than just a “friend” on Facebook. Send them an email and invite them out for a coffee or beer, and tell them you want to share ideas, and see if you can support each other in your ventures. Maybe invite them to meet your other like-minded friends. The point is to do something – ANYTHING – other than just “waiting” for them to take action and create the connection. Remember: You must take action or you can’t create the connections! Because the reason why most people don’t connect with others is they don’t take the follow up action that will confirm the relationship. More on this here. And finally…
Remember, Everyone Wants To Be Heard: Like Arthur, many of us just want to be heard, but don’t know how to do it… Hence why I’m writing this post! And this is the very best reason of all to reach out to strangers – to give them the opportunity to share their stories and be heard. Earlier I mentioned the lady who waited 4 days to connect with people at WDS; yet once she finally reached out (baby step!) she instantly gained 15 supporters and friends who wanted to learn more about her.
By her reaching out first, she initiated those conversations that were – and are – beneficial for all involved. My hat is off to her for her courage, but more importantly because by making contact she now realizes that she has what it takes to connect with strangers. This should serve as a reminder whenever she finds herself in this position in the future.
So there you have my top ten strategies on how to best meet folks. Try thinking of it this way: Reaching out and asking questions to strangers is akin to offering a gift to people who might have a hard time doing the same; but like all of us, who have much to say and want to be heard. I’m asking you to be the one to take that first bold step, and reach out to strangers. Connect with them. Listen to their stories, and then share yours. Give them the gift of friendship, and receive it back yourself.
All it takes is a little push, which is what I hope these ten strategies have provided for you. If you need more, just ask and I’d be happy to help you out – Just drop me a line, and of course I’ll respond. Because the truth is, I’m always happy to make new friends myself.
Thanks for reading~!