We’ve all been told not to talk to strangers. But I love strangers. The stranger the better. This may be because I have moved a lot. Which means I’ve often found myself amongst people I don’t know. But most people are less comfortable with total strangers than I am. This is probably a good human survival mechanism. A mechanism I lack.
As the Founder of The Weaponry, I know that the ability to talk to strangers is critical for entrepreneurs. If you don’t talk to strangers you are not growing your business. Or helping anyone else grow theirs. When I meet a potential new client, it is our ability to connect as humans first that leads to us working together.
I believe in building on my strengths. So recently I listened to the audio book How To Work A Room by Susan RoAne. I figured I would find a valuable new nugget or two. And I did.
The most important thing I learned from the book is this:
When people find themselves with other people they don’t know, they adopt one of two behaviors: 1. A guest mindset. or 2. A host mindset.
The guest mindset adopts the attitude of the outsider, of the person who waits for others to make the first move. They wait to be introduced, or welcomed or fed. They wait to join or participate until they receive an invitation. If you have a party full of guest-mindsets, you don’t have a party.
The host mindset means you initiate. You welcome others, introduce them, offer them food or drink or a crack at catching the greased pig (depending on what kind of event you typically attend). You activate the party. If you want to feel at home and enjoy any group of strangers, take on a host mindset.
This is what I do. I just didn’t have a name for it. I don’t wait for someone else to decide whether or not I am worthy to talk to (I probably am not). I make the first move. I create the introduction. I act as if it were my job to make people feel welcomed.
I’ve found that when you don’t worry about rejection you don’t get rejected. Think of it like a Junior High dance. You just have to walk up to someone and say, ‘Stairway to Heaven is a sweet tune. Let’s dance. And let’s not worry about the fact that this song will gradually speed up, and we’re going to go from a slow dance into a full-on rock song, and we won’t know when we should stop holding on to each other.’ Remember the Stairway analogy. Because holding on to one person too long at a social gathering also becomes awkward.
If you want to enjoy a room full of strangers more, lose the Stranger Danger, and act like it’s your party, your wedding, your conference or luncheon. Start by introducing yourself to others. Ask people about themselves. So, where are you from? What do you do for work? Where did you go to school? How do you know the homeowner? Why are your palms so sweaty? Why the neck tatttoo?
There are people at every gathering who are just dying for someone else to make the first move. They don’t know they should be doing it. Because they never read this blog. Or How To Work A Room. Or danced with me in Junior High. Help them out. Be a host. They may be extremely interesting or valuable to you. They’re just not comfortable initiating. So you have to be. And you’ll enjoy the rewards. You never know when that total stranger may have the kindness, connection or kidney you need.