Lady Penelope, my partner, used to know 'everybody' in the village. She hasn't become less sociable, but she knows far less people now. Is this because the village is so much bigger? Is it because people are less friendly? Has she become less confident?
The reasons may be many but I do know one truth: Penelope has lost the 'interface' that used to make it easy for her to talk to relative strangers. That 'interface' was a dual one for her - she had a very friendly Labrador and she had young children. When people have a friendly dog, or young kids, it seems acceptable for strangers to stop and talk to them.
Alas, the dog has passed on and the children have grown up. It is far harder for people to approach one another without an excuse.
If the thought of owning and walking a dog doesn't appeal, and the idea of having kids doesn't work for you, is there an alternative?
Not really. There's something about the attractiveness and innocence of dogs and children that makes it 'safe' and OK to reach out and connect. What people need is a reason or an excuse to connect. They need to feel safe and comfortable to risk what could otherwise turn into a rejection.
There is a less intense version of this challenge with Networking events. We need a non-threatening point-of-contact.
Structuring an event so that there is some kind of round-table or 'speed-dating' experience can help, but it can also still feel uncomfortable for those of us who are not natural networkers.
This is where 'tangibility' becomes a great ability to have. A business card is tangible - touchable, exchangeable. If you want to feel more comfortable at networking events (and help others to feel that way too), have something tangible to give them, and give them a reason to connect.
I confuse the life out of business people I meet because it's difficult to put your finger on what exactly I do. To overcome this barrier, it is essential for me to offer them a point-of-contact and a conversation opener.
When I used to volunteer as a Breakfast Show Host on the local radio station, it was easier. Being a volunteer wasn't glamorous, so there were no bragging rights, but it was interesting and it was exciting to chat to people about being a guest on my show.
Nowadays, I can get a similar impact with less time constraints by talking about podcasts. I can use my broadcast experience and help people get their message online and on air by recording a podcast with them. This potential benefit makes it easier to connect with relative strangers. It gives us an excuse to talk!
It would seem then that to meet friends and influence people, it helps to have a dog, or young children, or a radio show! Go get one - or all three - and be clear on your conversation opener! Don't be a stranger!
A Moodscope member.