People tell me all the time that it’s hard to make connections. When I hear this, I always ask: When’s the last time you talked to a stranger?
One thing I’ve learned from experience is that the person sitting next to you on a plane or at a conference, or waiting alongside you in a ticket line, just might change your life. Maybe that person will wind up offering you a job, help you get your kid into a good college, connect you with a publisher, or even become your best friend. But you know what? You’ll never find out, unless you’re willing to take a chance and say “hello.” So as part of my “Create Happy” Month, I’m challenging you to try turning a stranger into an ally who’ll make your life happier.
The next time you find yourself next to a stranger, here’s what I want you to do:
Make the first move. Simply say “hi”—it’s not that hard!
Add a conversation starter. For instance, if you’re heading for Los Angeles, you can ask, “Do you live in L.A., or are you just visiting?”
Don’t be too pushy. Some people simply aren’t interested in striking up a conversation. If you make one or two attempts and the other person doesn’t respond (or pointedly buries his or her nose in a book) then give up gracefully.
Center your conversation around the other person—not yourself. It’s tempting to tell another person all about yourself—your job, your family, your accomplishments. But your best strategy is not to be interesting, but to be interested. So focus your attention on the other person, and really listen to what he or she is saying.
Be helpful. If you discover that the other person has a need you can fill, be generous with your assistance. For instance, I’ve been able to refer several airplane seatmates to doctors who could help them heal their medical problems.
If you strike it off, leave your contact information. Offer a business card, or jot down your name, phone number, and email address.
I’ll tell you up front that making acquaintances this way is like fishing: You need to throw your line in lots of times before you get a hit! Typically, you’ll just make small talk with another person and then part ways. But every so often, you can form a real bond in the course of a plane flight or a conference—and that bond can make your life, and the other person’s, richer.
So just say “hi,” and see what happens. You’ll never know until you try!
Keep Thinking Big & Living Bold!