My recent visit to New York included many great adventures – media interviews, two Broadway shows, my first visit to MoMA, and visits with dear friends.
I love New York. It’s such a different world from Olympia and a really fun place to visit. But, the people there have a reputation. They aren’t that friendly, or so I’ve heard.
Now, out west we are pretty casual, accepting, and usually nice to strangers. In New York, that’s not always the case. Not everyone says “hi” on the street and people generally keep to their own business. Sometimes they are known to be downright rude.
Yes, that’s what I’ve heard. But that’s not been my experience. I have found that, no matter where you are, if you look people in the eye and smile, and point out something you have in common with them right away, you can make connections quickly.
My visit took me to see my daughter’s best friend, Elizabeth. We were walking along the Upper East Side where she lives and I spotted a woman with a mini-dachshund. I immediately moved toward the woman with the dog and asked, “Can I say hi to your dog? I have dachshunds at home and I miss them.” She looked up at me cautiously and said “okay.” I carried on a conversation with the dog for a minute then asked the woman her dog’s name and other things that dog people ask each other like “how old is she?” and “was she hard to potty train?” We talked for a minute, I said “thanks,” and Elizabeth and I started walking again. This native New Yorker started walking along with us and in the next 2 blocks we had a great conversation – I learned about her background, where she lived, who her dog walker was, and how she found her apartment. All because of Alizza, her dachshund pup.
Making friends with strangers can be great practice for making connections when it’s important to do so – a new boss, co-workers, clients, neighbors. It lets you try out conversations in a low-risk environment with, sometimes, huge benefits (e.g. if I ever need a dog walker in New York – I know who to call). What’s the worst thing that could happen? A stranger may think you are strange. And, as strangers go –you most likely will never see them again. So why not take the risk?
Sometimes, all it takes to break the ice with someone is to connect with something you have in common. Go to that right away in the first thing you say, and watch how quickly you can connect. Point out whatever you notice that’s interesting, or offer to help, or simply smile. You’ll be glad you did.
Betty Lochner is a communication specialist, author, and professional speaker who teaches individuals and organizations how to make small changes that make huge differences in their relationships at work and home – improving morale, confidence and productivity. She is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home and 52 Communication Tips. Both are also available on Amazon.com. – See more at: www.cornerstone-ct.com
With Elizabeth in New York City, NY