The only way that you are going to get better at something is through practice. I read a quote in a hockey book once that really caught my attention,
Even those with raw talent have to practice regularly. Engaging others in professional roles should not be limited to work relationships. You should practice engaging others when possible.
My dad was a teacher, and is still very engaging to this day – partially because of his personality. But it was also a necessity for his career. Could you imagine being in front of a class of kids and not holding their attention? Teachers who could captivate the “crowd” were always the ones that remained memorable to me.
This also meant that my dad and I could never go to a shopping mall quickly because he was always running into people. Conversations would start, and time would pass by. My mom would always comment upon our return, “Where were you? I just sent you for a couple of things!” Remember, you could not text or call a cell phone back in the day
There are so many opportunities to engage people outside of work:
- In line at a store
- At social events with friends
- Business or community events
- Sporting events
- On a walk or a run
- Groups, associations or teams that you and/or your children are part of
I was thinking about this one day after a run, and reflected on how many people I acknowledged in that 45 minute period. It was about twelve!
- Some greetings were a simple hello or good morning as I passed by
- With others I would make a quick comment on the weather, or about the degree of difficulty of the hill that I (or they) had just ran up
- Some were quick stops so our dogs could greet each other. It was common that I asked for information about their dog, and how the person’s day was going
- I even complimented one guy who was actually attempting to train his new puppy
If I never practiced this skill, and instead just went through the day keeping to myself, it would be unreasonable to expect that I’d be very good at it in a short time period. Skills would develop eventually, but carrying that philosophy over to your personal life just means that you have more opportunity to practice. Then before you know it, the skill improves.
This was not always easy for me; because I was quite shy growing up due to my stutter. Speaking up and meeting people was very difficult well in to my teenage years. But with practice and patience, I now consider myself very engaging, and will always take time to speak with others.
- Do you only engage new people in work situations?
- Where can you begin to converse with people starting right away in your personal life?
The most practical business skill that has come out of this for me is keeping conversations going when there is a lot of dead air. I think most of us have experienced conversations that were very one-sided, and it was a struggle to keep it going, and interesting for the other person.
Good luck, and remember to always be in “engagement mode”!
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