Tips on how to connect with people.
Ask anyone what they want. If they’re being honest, most people will tell you they want friends . . . real connection with others.
The problem is that we live in a world where everyone is looking down at their mobile devices. They seem more interested in cyber relationships than the actual people around them. How do we get around this?
Just for fun, my son, Michael, and I recently did an experiment to see if we could more easily connect with people. What we found astounded us.
Michael is studying at a college across the country. While he had been making do without a car, the time came when he really needed his beloved old Toyota 4Runner at school. Rather than simply ship it from Seattle to the University of Florida, he wanted to drive it on a “coast to coast” road trip. I was reluctant, given that the 4Runner is 30 years old and has 200,000 miles on it. But I gave in, knowing it would be a great time to make memories.
Now for the experiment. We wanted to see if we could connect with some of our fellow travelers. To accomplish this, we would try telling our story using window paint. We marked the following messages on the truck’s windows:
Dad & Son Cross USA (the “why” of our trip . . . a message with family appeal on a side window that would be seen by vacationing families passing us)
14 States, 3K Miles, 5 Days (the “how” of our trip on a side window)
Our hope was that different parts of our story might appeal to different people. But would it make a connection with others? Would people say anything?
The results were overwhelming. People talked with us every time we stopped for gas or food. People took pictures of the truck. Most surprising of all, we received a constant stream of smiles, waves and honking horns while driving.
We connected with people with all kinds of backgrounds . . . approving semi-truck drivers, families on their own road trips, people who had never seen window paint, teens gawking at an old 4Runner and even hard core bikers on their way to their famous Sturgis, South Dakota rally. We made a lot of fast friends. Easily.
THE SECRET? When we reflected on our silly experiment we discovered a secret. We connect with people when there is story. We took a risk and put a little of our story out there. But by doing so, it gave people the opportunity to respond.
I could have given you a thousand reasons why we shouldn’t use window paint. The truck was full of dorm stuff we didn’t want stolen out of a hotel parking lot. We didn’t want to be targeted by con artists. Why call attention to ourselves? How easy it would have been to do nothing and simply blend in with all the other cars.
Having a story is like sanding before painting (“keying”). A keyed surface is rough and gives the paint something to which it can attach. Without keying, paint simply slides off polished/smooth surfaces. There’s nothing to grab on to… no way for it to adhere. Our stories give traction – something others can take hold of. They give people a way to connect with us.
APPLICATION: How can we put this secret to work? How can we better connect with people? Here are some ideas to better start conversations:
• Next time you fill out a name tag don’t just put down your name, but a question like “What’s your favorite movie?” or “What was your first car?”
• Make nice polo shirts or a jacket with your interest on them. Embroider a hat or handbag. Wear them strategically.
• Put up a picture or poster in your work space.
• Have things that interest you in your garage that others can see and speak with you about.
• Create a sign, custom mailbox or artwork for your yard.
• Put a bumper sticker or license plate frame on your car (or use window paint!)
Put just a little of yourself out there and see how much easier it is to connect with people!
— Ride Along With Us For A Few Trip Highlights —
Crossing the incredible Columbia River in Washington State.
Street names we didn’t know how to pronounce.
Trains so long they need engines in the middle.
The famous motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Tens of thousands of bikes in one place. We’ve never seen anything like it.
There really are falls in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
On the lookout for Tigers at the University of Missouri.
It turns out that the ‘Gateway to the West’ is ‘Gateway to the East’ if you’re going the opposite direction.
Some places still have cheap gas.
Waze seems to indicate there are more police in Florida than the rest of the USA combined.
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