23 Nov Two tips to help you easily connect with people you don’t know
Friends and colleagues often tell me that they dread going to events where they don’t know anyone and find it awkward to initiate good conversations with others. While this is quite daunting and can be energy draining, it is also very exciting, as you have no idea who you are about to connect with, and a connection can only be achieved through sharing stories.
Why is this important you ask? Well throughout our lives we are always going to be placed in situations where we may not know anyone, like at a networking event, or a friend’s birthday (where you only know them) or a partner’s work event, or children’s parties. And I don’t know about you, but I want to make the most of every event I attend and actually enjoy it (even if I am not with my people).
Travis Bradberry explains that social connection is such a fundamental human need that you think it would be easy with everyone we meet. Unfortunately, that’s not the case because shyness, self-consciousness, cynicism, pride, competitiveness, jealousy, biases, preconceived assumptions and arrogance can be barriers to connecting with someone.
As a business owner, I attend many networking events and, with the above in mind, I have found that in order for someone to be open with me, I have to be open with them. This means sharing a story of my own. This can be quite hard as it means I have a sense of vulnerability with a complete stranger. So I work hard to ensure I share stories with those I don’t know that makes them feel comfortable, included and warm when I am chatting to them so that I can connect with them and have an engaging conversation.
Coincidently, I have found a lot of new people I meet often tell me that they really enjoyed my energy, which can only occur if I share a part of myself with them, and the only way to do this is through stories. I wanted to share my top two tips to think about the next time you are sharing a story with someone you don’t know, or don’t know that well.
Tip 1: Share positive stories
Positive stories really set the energy and tone of the conversation, so on my way to an event, I always try and think of a couple of fun/silly things that have recently happened to me that is relatable to many people. For example, it was recently my 30th birthday, which encompassed a fun weekend of celebrating, people will always relate to birthdays. Yes everyone has their bad days and challenges, but use your family and friends for those stories, otherwise, people you have just met will walk away from you feeling quite drained and flat.
Tip 2: Share appropriate stories
Ensure the story you are sharing is appropriate for the situation; nothing makes a conversation more awkward than an inappropriate story. Sometimes I will start sharing a story and as I am mid-way through I realise it probably isn’t that appropriate for the people I am chatting to (or they are not responding the way I am hoping), but it’s not too late! You can quickly morph it or simplify it into another story that is a lot more suitable (probably not as funny but definitely a smart decision).
Sharing stories does make you a little more vulnerable, but as my Dad, David, says, there’s the normal bell curve of people. 20% of people you will immediately click with, 60% of people you will connect with on some level and 20% of people it will be difficult to connect with at all. I always think, ‘what have I got to lose?’’ You never know who you are going to meet and what story they will connect with (and what new story you will hear), this is what makes meeting new people so exciting!