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Get over stranger anxiety and meet new people!

It is hard to learn something new if you roll with the same people all the time.  In 2016, I visited 15 different countries.  One of my favorite things to do, was to challenge myself to learn something new from a complete stranger.

It isn’t easy talking to someone you don’t know.  On the flip side, having someone walk up to you and say “Hey, teach me something?” would be very weird.  So, my approach had to be strategic.  Here is my playbook.

Objective:  Learn something new from a complete stranger!

Goal #1: Ice breaker
Strategy: The best ice breaker is to find an opportunity to be helpful. Perhaps you can open a door for someone, let them cut ahead in line, after a sneeze say “god bless you”, give up your seat, or something similar. Find that moment to be helpful. Smile when you do it. The smile is like the layup after a brick. The brick gets the attention, the layup gets you the 2 points you were looking for. This Ice Breaker opens the lines of communication.

Goal #2: Get to the “comfort zone”
Strategy: The ice breaker isn’t enough to bring the defense down. The comfort zone is just behind the force-field. To get there, you have to practice being normal. Unfortunately we live in a world where we hear more about the bizarre. The unexpected, at first, seems abnormal. Don’t be weird. Just be normal. How do you do that? Be genuine. Be bright. Be present. Share a quick story. Don’t start asking questions. No one wants to be interviewed by a non-credible weirdo. Share an experience related to what just happened. “I didn’t give up my seat to someone one time in front of my mom, and to this day she reminds me about it.” People like to give after receiving. So if you share a story, chances are they will share one back! That is when you know you are in the comfort zone. You have to develop credibility as a normal person in order to get to the comfort zone.

Goal #3: Position them as your teacher
Strategy: You can’t learn if you talk too much. After a few exchanges, it’s time to pass the ball. First transition from talking to listening. Just participating as a listener isn’t enough. You might lose them. Remember, the objective is to learn something new from a complete stranger. We need to get them to run with the ball. To do that, we need them to feel good about talking. Show excitement. People like to entertain. Let them feel like you are entertained, not JUST engaged (there is a difference). Lastly, to move them from talking to teaching, demonstrate curiosity. All of this is done through feedback. Your feedback shouldn’t be just “wow” or “really” and “uh huh”. To demonstrate curiosity, pay attention to when they are skipping details. People do this when they think you may not understand or you are not interested. When you ask for more details when you know they are skipping, you are demonstrating curiosity and interest. Additionally, if they were about to skip details with you, they probably have skipped the same details with everyone who came before you who got the same story. This is where you find new learnings. More importantly, unique learnings. When I recognize details are being skipping, I demonstrate interest and curiosity with something like “wow, could you walk me through that?” Through feedback you can position them as your teacher.

Measure:  Now that they shared a story with details.  Or better yet, walked you through how they do what they do, or know what they know, you can measure whether you achieved your objective.   By learning something new.  If you have, then you achieved your objective!  If not, then evaluate/review whether you executed the playbook well.

You can use this playbook to learn something new or even connect with people you’ve never met before.  Simply set the objective for what you want to achieve, and tailor the rest of the playbook.  I often use OGSM framework for playbooking.  I hope you are successful.


Image Reference: Google Images

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