… as written for Dubbo Weekender 4 Nov 2016
“Thank you for noticing me”
THESE were the words quietly uttered by an Asian lady in response to a long-term-local woman saying “hello” on the street in Dubbo.
I heard about this brief conversation a few years ago by the local woman’s daughter. I’ve never forgotten it as I wondered about the lady who appreciated the acknowledgment. It’s possible that our regional city has been her home for many years, or she may have moved here more recently for work, a lifestyle change, or perhaps to escape a desperate situation in another part of the world. Maybe she feels as much a member of the community as anyone else. Either way, the greeting mattered, probably more than this local lady would realise.
She represents each one of us. Human beings wired to connect, hoping to be noticed, yet many times not wanting to ‘stand out’. I love hearing those stories of friendly locals. It’s important to become more aware of the good in our community, and discuss it, which deepens the awareness and learning, and inspires more of the same.
Awareness is essential for connecting well. The more I speak about this (on planes, trains and from stage), the deeper the insights – for me and my audiences. Awareness is the first part of the training I’ve created, and while I could spend a day on this one piece of the puzzle, this page is my playground for now.
As I write this, I’m in Bali for a couple of days following Connect With Confidence team sessions I facilitated in Singapore last week.
I’m actually here with the CEO of one of the companies I worked with. She went out early in the morning for a walk and messaged me before we me met for brunch, “Having the most amazing morning talking to strangers!”
As she arrived at my table at a café, holding a bunch of turmeric and pulling clove seeds from her pocket she shared the amazing things she’d learned during her a walk around Ubud.
She’d allowed her curiosity and recently increased awareness (of being open to connecting with strangers) to take her down a path into a small farm that she’s noticed from the road several times before.
Discovering a man working in the garden, she said good morning and an insightful conversation began, learning that his life and business experience was quite extraordinary. Growing up in poverty, he was never able to attend school, and although he is still illiterate, he builds villas, rents them out, grows a stunning, flavorsome garden (hence the seeds) and in low seasons goes to Australia to work as a chef for a few months.
He then returns to invest and build more. His history of extensive travel and knowledge of the world was not only fascinating, but really useful to my friend who is also an adventurer and investor.
As the author of Do Talk To Strangers – How To Connect With Anyone, Anywhere, I’m asked a lot of questions about connection and communication – and I ask myself a lot of questions too. I’m constantly exploring and discovering other perspectives, increasing my awareness of other cultures, within workplaces, families and nations. Thanks to social media I’m also seeing “talking to strangers” becoming a conversation around the world. Opinions for and against, which is great. It means people are thinking about it.
It goes far beyond my book, far beyond all the conversations I have with people in many different countries. It’s a global issue. People are dying to connect with others, yet holding back ‘in case it goes wrong’ in some way, and missing opportunities to feel a sense of belonging, and not serving the world in the way we could, the way that’s inbuilt in us.
There are so many incredible moments in life that we miss because we hesitate, we hold back or we’re not aware of the opportunities around us. We simply don’t see them. We can’t do anything about something we have little or no awareness of, so let’s increase our awareness of the moments in our day to day lives where we can make a positive difference, with a smile, a hello, and an interest in others.
This is what I’ve been doing as I travel back and forth to Asia, and sometimes around regional Australia and Sydney. I help people to connect with confidence in any scenario.
Sometimes it’s leadership conversations, sometimes it’s sales or team development conversations, and sometimes it’s just those momentary coincidences or serendipitous moments where we see somebody and simply say ‘Hi’.
Amazing things can and do often happen from these moments. And it creates more connected, compassionate world, a more positive, creative, innovative world.
So I am on a mission to help people to connect, and to be their confident, authentic self – people and teams communicating who they are and what they stand for.
Of course I’m a work in progress too, pushing myself out of my expanding comfort zone, and being more aware of my interactions with family, friends and strangers.
Years ago on an early morning walk with my son, I said to him, “I love our conversations as we walk and we’re so into it that we can forget the world around us… Let’s also be aware of people passing us – we can pause our conversation for a moment to say good morning to the few people we pass.
We could be the only one’s they see today, the only ones who smile and acknowledge them.” It matters. You know this yourself if you’ve ever been down and found yourself lifted by the connection with others.
We don’t make significant progress with any goal without a good awareness of the situation. To connect with anyone well, we need to be more aware of them. If your goals are related to connecting with others and communicating well it’s so important to increase your self-awareness too. How are you responding or reacting to those around you? Consider how you can focus on others and serve them, without losing your sense of self, but becoming more self-aware and others-aware.
We don’t always get it right. We can only do our best. Let’s do our best to connect purposefully and make a difference.
We can’t do anything about something we have little or no awareness of, so let’s increase our awareness of the moments in our day to day lives where we can make a positive difference, with a smile, a hello, and an interest in others.
Cheering you on,
PS. Awareness is an essential to key to connecting with others, and is the first part of the ASKING Model in DO Talk To Strangers. Enjoy your increased awareness!