The First Step in Connecting with Others

I believe the first step in becoming a master at connecting with others is having a clear and deep understanding of yourself.   Today’s world makes it difficult for people to have self-confidence.  This is particularly true for teenagers who are more sensitive than most adults.  Sources of low self-confidence stem from many directions such as how you were raised as a child, classmates in school, social media, advertising, television, movies, magazines, etc.  We tend to place a great deal of pressure on ourselves to live up to what we perceive or others tell us is a desirable self-standard. Self-awareness can be achieved through a variety of activities such as spending time alone meditating or taking a walk allowing your mind to process a day or previous week’s activities. Consciously reflecting on you unconscious principles (your specific attributes) allowing no one else but you to form an opinion is a good practice to develop as a way to gain better self-awareness.
Gaining this awareness is not an overnight process. It can take years, even decades but the more you do it is rewarding and will be recognized by others as you connect with them. Tip: There may be moments when you get stuck and are unable to help yourself form an opinion or are not satisfied with the opinion you’ve helped yourself to form. In that case carefully select someone (not necessarily someone you’re close with) to engage into this discussion to help you out of your rut. Make sense? Hope this helps!


Connecting with the Rude & Anti-Social

I’d like to follow up on my 9/13 blog entitled: “Tips On Connecting with People Outside of Your Comfort Zone” and share some tips on connecting with a style of individuals that I refer to as “the toughies” – people who are rude and anti-social.

My career places in me front of clients and strangers all day long.  Once in a while, there’s a client or stranger who’s a real tough nut to crack (“toughies“) in terms of connecting.  Recently, a gentleman came into my store with his wife and a grim look on his face.  He had an issue and needed it fixed right away.  He was not interested in having any sort of conversation beyond getting his need satisfied.  Still, my goal was to break this thick wall of ice between us.  In order to do so, I had to look beyond his rude and unsocial personality to find the potential to make a positive and impressionable connection.

Long story short, we ended up having a series of laughs and a warm handshake and a smile when it was all said and done and get this – before leaving my office he requested one of my business cards himself.  It was such a positive experience that I wanted to share a couple of tips with you all as to what I did to help make this happen.

The trick is to focus 100% on the person.  This means don’t ask a question unless it 100% directly relates to the person standing in front of you.  Remember, people love hearing their name and they love talking about themselves, their accomplishments and their interests.  This gives you the opportunity to leverage favorable attention (see previous blogs) by utilizing their answers to pay them a compliment.   Here are some examples of questions that are solely directed at learning about a specific person:  “You look familiar.”   “I don’t think we’ve met before, have we?”   “If you don’t mind me asking, are you originally from (City Name)?”  Although it would be acceptable to ask:  “Do you live close to here?”  Depending on their age: “What do you do for a living?”  “Are you retired?”  “Where did you retire from?”  “Are you a student?”  “Where did you graduate from?”  “What do you do for a living?”

NOTE 1:  Make Eye Contact when asking them a question.

NOTE 2:  In the event that this rude person’s spouse is there with them, your questions should focus on both of them.

NOTE 3:  DON’T ask indirectly related questions:  “Do you have children?”  This is actually a mistake because although a parent’s offspring is important to them, it’s indirectly related to them as an individual.  Another example is the common ‘get to know you question’ of:  “So tell me about yourself?”  That is just too broad and will upset these people who aren’t in the mood to chat.  Make sense?

Like with any conversation, ask one question and then wait for a response.  Even if your rude or anti-social individual responds with “I don’t have time for chit-chat” don’t let that discourage your endeavor to make a connection.  Proceed by acknowledging their desire to stay focused on their issue or need or whatever the situation and then, as you continue to work on solving their problem, ALSO continue to find ways to connect (polite persistent) but be careful not to barrage them with more than a few attempts.  Please make sure you preface each attempt to connect by re-acknowledging their objection to connect with something like: “I know you’re in a hurry and I’m doing everything I can to help make that happen, however, I’m curious about something if you don’t mind my asking …”

In the long run, it’s critical that this rude or anti-social person(s) walks away with the general impression that you are trying to get to know them.  They need to feel that you really care about getting to know them.  Eventually, they may feel like a jerk for being so rude to you and that feeling could work in your favor the next time you encounter them.  Overall, you never want these individuals to walk away feeling like they’ve controlled the conversation because they’ll own that expectation of control the next time you encounter them.

I hope some of these tips help so when you do encounter a rude person you’re back pocket’s equipped with a few tools to help break the ice and make a positive and impressionable connection.


Tips on Connecting Outside of your Comfort Zone

Let’s dig a little deeper into connect and interacting with others, particularly strangers.

Obviously, most of us gravitate towards people with a similar style of communicating or towards people with whom we share something in common.  But its important to learn how to positively and productively interact with people outside of our comfort zone.  It’s all about learning how to nimbly shift your normal every-day interests in order to adapt and make interesting conversation with others.

Just remember (and we’ve talked about this in previous blogs) DON’T BE FAKE.  You’ve got to learn to show genuine interest with another person is talking.  Even if there seems to be no genuine interest in what the other person chooses to discuss, you need to somehow meet them half-way.  Embracing one another’s differences will help you grow as an individual.  After all, how dull would life be if we were all the same?

Here are some connecting tips:

#1  Try and look at the conversation through their lens

#2  Find out what motivates them to enjoy their chosen topic of discussion

#3  Find out what their personal history is behind that motivation

Inquiring may uncover a commonality that could be used to bridge a single-sided conversation into a mutually enjoyed one.

Next time you encounter a group of people, challenge yourself to gravitate towards a stranger (or even more challenging a group of strangers). Explore ways to adapt and expand your interests to build new relationships.  Our world is communicating more and more via social media and instant messaging and less and less via face-to-face.  Learning how to connect with different people will help give you a competitive edge in social environments as the generations to come moving less and less towards face-to-face interactions at a rapid pace.

Your ability to effectively connect with individuals and/or groups will leave an inspirational impression on them.  You will be more remembered by those individuals or groups versus those parties who failed to find a way to connect.


Inspired by Experts

Have you ever been inspired by a legitimate know-it-all?  I’m not talking about those people who make stuff up to impress anyone who will listen but rather a true expert in a particular (or multiple) fields.  The first person who comes to mind, for me, is Dr. Maura Isles from TNT’s Hit TV Series “Rizzoli & Isles.”  Although her character is an extreme case of genius, it’s one of the reasons why I tune in to every episode.  Dr. Isles inspires me to want to learn more seeing how people trust the knowledge she shares and seek her out when they need answers.

Throughout my life, I’ve encountered less extraordinary examples of one or another category experts yet nonetheless inspiriting.  I’m easily sucked into their vast knowledge and confident way of speaking.  These folks are commonly known as SME‘s or Subject Matter Experts and they truly have a gift of inspiring others.

People seek one thing when it comes to information: Accuracy.  Unless you’re in search of opinion, the accuracy of what someone is telling you is critical to them returning to you for additional information.

In previous blogs I have talked about connecting.  If you are good at connecting then a smart way to retain your listeners, readers, fans, customers, clients, etc you should expand your factual knowledge about the subjects on which they rely on your for information.  How?  Research.  Read historical and up-to-date information on the subject.  Ask questions of other SME’s.  The wider you can expand your knowledge, the more frequently people will come to seeking information.  If the information you share is always wrong, they will never come to you again.  (Note: for business and marketing information I’m a big fan of the Harvard Business Review).

One of the best ways to inspire someone is by teaching them something, of value, that they didn’t already know.  Then, every time they use that new information they will think of you.  Not only that, they will share that information with others, hopefully, mentioning your name and/or business name along with it.