In August, I was recognized at the JP monthly staff meeting for being “fearless” when it comes to putting myself out there at events filled with new people. Afterwards, I began thinking… was I born this way or does it come from years of practice?
The answer is… maybe a little of both. I’m an extrovert by nature, but my life has forced me into meeting new people and developing relationships as necessary.
My family moved from Upstate New York when I was three months old. I’ve lived in six different states and traveled to more than 20 different countries. No my parents weren’t in some witness protection program, they both worked for IBM (a.k.a I’ve Been Moved – what my sister and I called the company). Some of these moves were with my family early in life and some while I was in the US Navy, but every step of my journey I’ve had to learn how to interact, how to communicate, and how to cooperate with the people I came in contact with.
The key word here is learn! I had it easier than most because I’m an extrovert, but nonetheless I’ve had to learn how to interact with new people every time I moved to a new place. Since I did it so often I had plenty of practice. It’s not about a secret formula like: x amount of listening + x amount of personal questions = successful interaction; it’s something you must learn over time.
Communication is a dance. You have to feel your way through it and understand body language. You need to know when to react and what the proper type of reaction is. And you must learn when to take the lead and when to follow.
Be in the moment and you will find that your conversation is much more interesting for all involved. Don’t be so obsessed with thinking about a funny anecdote for your reply that you miss an important piece of information!
If you let the conversation take a natural course it won’t feel forced. Too often we think we need to say the right thing or give the elevator speech about the company you work for. The conversation will be much more memorable and engaging if it’s not a sales pitch.
People will want to stay in touch or get in touch when they need you. Now this doesn’t happen every time you engage in conversation, but being yourself and making sure you are remembered will increase your chances!
Just remember, anything worth doing in life doesn’t come easy; relationship building is no different. The next time you get an email with an invite to a community mixer, put it on your calendar and go. Most likely, I’ll see you there!