Don’t Fear The Connection
Whenever I’m in doubt about the direction my internal compass is pointing, invariably I come back to a simple phrase. “Through the eyes of a child.” Am I seeing things through the cynical, judgmental eyes this world has tried very hard to have me become? Or can I keep seeing things like my son saw (and in many ways still) sees things? My wife and I taught him about strangers for years (and continue to, now that he is a teenager). It is sad we must incorporate such tarnishes on an innocent mind so early, but such are the times we live in.
I vividly remember a day when he was 4 and pointed to people from the basket of the shopping cart and said in that unfiltered 4-year-old bellow, “Daddy, that person is a stranger right there!” Awkward smiles usually follow. I reminded him of “inside voices” and “it isn’t polite to point at people” in full on parent-speak, but I saw the confusion and almost hurt in his eyes until I relent and agree that yes, that 80 year old woman buying the 6-pack of Ensure with fortified calcium was indeed, a stranger.
These memories got me thinking about how this applies in other ways. Yes, there is a big bad world of strangers out there. But we are big bad strangers to the world too. Our world is made up of connections. Who you know, who knows you and who knows others. Successful people have many great connections. If we want to make more, we must work at it. What follows are some thoughts and ideas to help my adult friends out there not think of the world as “strangers.” I will offer 5 ways to bridge the “stranger divide.”
1. Look the Part
A lot of advertising dollars have been spent on the concept mentioned last week, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This has never been truer during this period of “Kardashianism.” That is, where it is more important to consider the wrapping paper than what’s underneath. I am not suggesting we all go out and blow our next 6 mortgage payments on a new wardrobe. Merely, take pride in your appearance and you will be infinitely more approachable than if you choose to wear your college sophomore t-shirt/sweat pant ensemble.
2. Do Your Homework
If you do have a chance to meet someone in a network setting, do your best to learn who you are meeting and have your homework done. As much as I loathe watching the news, I do have a couple of sources where I keep up on the basics of what is going on in the world. No one expects us to give a 1000-word explanation on the global economic impact of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on demand, but knowing the basics is a good homework assignment for us all.
3. Fake It Till You Make It
Strangers are scary. Just ask my son. No one is saying you will become a networking machine overnight. The only way to overcome this fear is by actually…*gulp*…striking up conversations. Start small. The Weather. Sports. Reality T.V. Anything that will begin a conversation. If you are terror stricken and cannot find the nerve no matter how hard you try, try it out on yourself in the bathroom mirror. Don’t laugh. My mirror knows all my secrets and has helped prepare for every important conversation throughout my adult life.
4. Fear Is Healthy, Sort Of!
Fear is nature’s way of letting you know just how far removed from your comfort zone you are getting. Fear is good. Fear will grow your comfort zone and the more you stretch it, the better. Remember, at the end of the day, nothing said, good or bad, positively or negatively is personal. It is all business. Rejection is just acceptance in its infancy. Nurture that rejection and let it grow.
5. Words are Power (Verbal More Than Written)
Expand your vocabulary. Plain and simple, this is an honest to goodness, no doubt about it way to make inroads faster than your competition. Truly master it. Don’t worry if your fantasy football buddies make fun of you. Just call them a bunch of luddites and watch their eyes glaze over in confusion. Remember to speak like the person you want to be. Practice makes perfect.
Think about those times you wish you had a do-over when meeting someone. Go through what you would have said if you could do it over. Practice, practice, practice. Strangers will continue to be big and scary to little humans. Don’t let them be for you!
Steve Gwisdalla is a Dexter resident and owns BetterPlace Consulting, a business helping individuals and small businesses through coaching and success strategies. Make a connection by reaching out to him at email@example.com
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