Posted by Hannah Erdman Posted on
By: Leigh Borgeson, Talent Connection Specialist
My role at Salo is to connect with people every day. I’d like to say that meeting new people has always been easy for me, but I would be lying if I did. Here’s one thing I did that truly changed how I interact with others and sharpened my connecting skills.
Connecting with strangers
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to study abroad in London for three months. Before I departed, I wanted to come up with a unique way to document the trip. I decided that each day I would take a picture with a stranger.
I’ve always considered myself to be fairly outgoing, but rarely did I put myself in situations where I knew absolutely no one, much less talk to a stranger on the street. Setting this goal would definitely push me outside of my comfort zone, but I looked forward to the experience.
Here’s the thing. It’s one thing to talk to someone you don’t know, but to talk to a stranger and then ask for picture is on a whole new level. When I asked the first handful of people to take a picture with me, I could feel my hands get sweaty, my heart beat really fast, and I felt like I was stumbling over my words. I was nervous and self-conscious of what people would say or think. But I kept at it. Before I knew it, the anxiety turned into adrenaline, and I began to actively seek out people each day. One of my favorite people I met was a 4-year old girl on the day before her birthday party. She told me all about her birthday cake and how excited she was to have her friends come over. I started feeling more comfortable asking these strangers about their stories, and their advice was incredibly impactful to me.
One of my favorite pieces of advice came from the man sitting next to me on the airplane. I’m not usually much of a plane talker, but I noticed his iPad was playing a slideshow of pictures of him from all around the world. Thirty minutes later, I knew all the places he has been and his favorite places around the world. He told me, “What so many people do is save all of the things they want to do in life – like traveling – until they are retired. I say, ‘Why not now while I’m young and able to do it?’”
Developing the picture… and a skill
What I’ve learned from this experience is that people aren’t as scary as they seem. I remember almost choosing not to do it because I was nervous people would try to steal my purse or say nasty things to me. Nothing bad ever happened. I will always remember the amazingly weird, fantastic and diverse people that I met. By stepping out of my box, I learned to how to connect with people, a skill that will not only help me in my career, but my personal life, too.
What we don’t realize is that we talk to strangers all the time. Whether it’s restaurant servers, the person next to you on the bus or even networking events, we are constantly making small talk. However, to develop deep relationships, we have to drive those interactions with strangers. Who knows? Maybe your smile or conversation that you had with the stranger will change their day from a bad day to good one.
“At the end of the day everyone has their own unique stories, waiting to be told.”
I encourage you to get out there and hear someone’s story because you might be surprised what you will discover – about others and yourself.
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Leigh Borgeson is a Talent Connection Specialist in our Chicago office.