Last summer I wrote about taking back networking and making it what we want it to be — a humble approach to connecting with others around you while finding ways to build synergistic relationships. (I sound so corporate, don’t I?) Since then, I re-read an article from Forbes on Jimmy Fallon and his approach to interviewing his guests. I found myself nodding my head as I read the article, as if I were sitting next to the writer on stage looking at Fallon in his natural element. Jimmy Fallon has a love of people that I respect dearly, as a professional as well as a human being. His ability to build connections with anyone feels seamless and almost produced, when you look at it from a nighttime television perspective.
We naturally navigate towards people with whom we share things in common. A favorite sports team, like-minded thoughts on faith and worldview, or careers in the same industry. That’s not breaking news. But I can’t help but think about the minority of us that actually steer our attention towards the people who don’t naturally show up on our front door step or come to mind first when thinking about what to do with your day. I think about some of the most fascinating conversations that I’ve had in life, and nearly all of them were with someone that I didn’t have all that much in common with, at least on the surface.
- A homeless man stopping in at a shelter to get a hot meal on a cold evening.
- A man who was in the process of changing his gender and sexuality.
- An Indian film director that had traveled by train to Cannes to make a big pitch for her film.
I can remember these conversations as if they were yesterday, so it’s clear that there is something special about moments where we find ourselves next to someone vastly different than ourselves. And the wild truth is all three of these conversations changed my life in some capacity. No matter how many of life’s variables keep us apart or segmented, there is this common ground that we all dwell in, which is the desire to be seen and to be known. You could place a pin of connectedness at the simplest of details, noted in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I know plenty of people that will own up to their personal standards of meeting new people, which rest atop of the hierarchy, focusing on creative outlets or morality of self-actualization. But it’s so foreign to think about the connections we are able to make with people simply on the physiological elements of survival: sleep, food, and homeostasis. It’s funny to think about walking up to that stranger you see at a cafe and imagine saying, “Oh hey. You like sandwiches too? I bet we’d have a great conversation if you’re interested.” This doesn’t happen too often, but I can’t help but ask, “why not?”. And yes, if you missed it, I just placed the universal love of sandwiches as a physiological, hierarchical priority.
Next time you see someone that you “obviously have nothing in common with”, I challenge you to step into that scary world of uncertainty and see what connection is able to be made. Not to throw off any free-spirits out there, but we’re all way more connected than we sometimes give credit.
- Find common ground with the person you’re speaking to.
- Ask questions and spend 75% of the conversation listening to their answers.
- Make them feel as though they’re the funniest, most important, and most fascinating person in the room.
What can you do today to help someone near you to be seen, heard, and known? Go, do that.