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I have been notorious for talking to strangers and making friends in the most unlikely of places since I was a little girl. Of course, my parents told me not to talk to strangers and to avoid situations that would put me in danger, but Little Whitney knew and believed that deep down inside, no one is really a stranger, and talking is a lot of fun. I love talking and laughing and hearing what people have to say – because most of the time I know what I’m going to say but I rarely know the first thing that’s going to come out of a stranger’s mouth, and that’s half the fun. My mom personally hated how friendly and talkative I was growing up because it posed security and safety threats that her hyper-vigilant and super protective brain did not like. She was always very nice about it as I got older when she knew I would be okay, but I could tell she didn’t really understand how I could get a stranger to immediately bond with me and give me things and remember me whenever I returned. After a while, I realized it was a gift of mine, not just a survival mechanism having grown up a military brat. I was constantly forced to make new friends in and out of school and in my neighborhood and it was a cyclical process of: I move somewhere, I meet new people, they leave shortly thereafter, new people come in, then it’s my turn to move, and it starts over. In high school and college I made great friends quickly and in business I could easily bond and relate to people quickly and effortlessly (which comes in handy more than often). I can relate to introverts, but after being in sales for a while, I have realized that introverts have way better social skills than they often give themselves credit for- especially when in the right conversation with the right person. I learned how to talk to people, ask them questions, and get them talking at their own comfort level, so that I could get the information I needed to do my job. In the process, you naturally tend to form a bond or trust with them and it is so amazing and fun to me how you can meet someone, even over the phone, and they will remember you and sometimes even stay connected to you for many moons. Networking is a whole different subject, but the overall art of talking to strangers and being able to bond with someone you’ve never met before is rewarding and so necessary in our everyday lives. And yes, I know there are people like the software engineers I used to work with who could not stand talking to people at work or out at a bar, but I’m here to tell you that almost everyone loves to talk about either themselves specifically or something they love. It could be their dog, it could be Game of Thrones, it could be their newborn, or it could be politics. For those of you who aren’t big on Stranger Danger Whitney Talk, I encourage you to find a commonality with someone you don’t know, complement them on something unique (their earrings or hair cut or literally anything they might care about) and see what happens. Sometimes you lead the conversation and sometimes they will- but if you look and act open, the conversation should flow. If it doesn’t, check your vibe, check your face (this includes checking for boogers as well as resting bitch face), and your tone and body language. I’ll follow up with a special blog for 9 Steps to Sparking and holding a Conversation with Anyone Anywhere. But for now: SMILE, compliment, and ask ask ask. And act like they’re the most interesting person or telling the most amazing story when they are in front of you because you never know what amazing things can happen from talking to someone.
Have you ever talked to a stranger and it led to something absolutely unexpected and amazing? If you haven’t, this is great because it means you get to pop your Stranger Danger Whitney Talk cherry any minute now. I love story tellers and I love listening to people’s accents and experiences. Pretend that you are about to meet someone this week who is going to tell you something extraordinary. Pretend you’re a nice, curious 4-year-old who wants to know things about people so they can learn about their world. Come back and tell me what kind of interesting people you met this week. What did they say? What did you all laugh about? Bonus points if keep in contact with them or (gasp) hug them.