Don’t Be A Stranger, Meet Someone Today

It’s Monday morning. Some people sit at their desks and quietly focus on a steaming mug of coffee, rather than shooting the breeze with their colleagues around the coffeemaker. Being one of those who loves to chat with my coworkers from college essay writing service by the coffeepot, I always wondered why they walk away. In “The Art of Conversation: Stranger? No Danger” Jay Morrissey, in his blog, points out the fact that many people are afraid to talk to strangers. I was amazed at how his opinions paralleled my own and made so much sense! Morrissey mentions five areas of our lives dating, community, office, friends, and shopping where talking to strangers ultimately brings people together and makes our lives better. He says in the Office section, “Whether it’s the managing director, the cleaner, or a complete stranger it will never hurt your career to connect with people. If anything, it will make your working day more enjoyable.” I strongly agree, and think his explanation of why people shy away from contact with strangers is dead on. It’s the phrase we all know by heart, drilled into us by our parents, “Don’t talk to strangers!” Once I got to be a certain age (and more rebellious), I realized that “talking to strangers” was the only way to meet people! Too many live in fear of leaving their comfort zone, whereas the way I see it, the best way to grow, professionally and personally, is to meet people. This fact became that much more obvious to me when I joined iWrite Marketing, a company that thrives on the philosophy that “marketing is all about people, and only about people!” Allow me to transport you into our office on a chilly Rochester day in mid-January. We had just finished a meeting when I received an email from the Rochester Advertising Federation, inviting us to a wine-tasting the following evening. I bounced up and down in anticipation, but my boss, Graeme Roberts, was reluctant. “I don’t know anyone, we are not an advertising agency, and I am not sure what good it would do,” he complained. My enthusiasm must have been infectious enough, because Graeme then agreed that we would go. The night of the wine-tasting, I met about ten or fifteen people, collected business cards, and saw some old and recently-made friends as well, including Rochester Advertising Federation President Kate Sonnick, and Dumbwaiter Design’s Therese Hannigan. This evening was an enriching experience: not only were the wine and food (of the Pacific Rim, no less!) wonderful, but so was the conversation. Whizzing about the room, approaching anyone and everyone who looked relatively friendly, I got to meet all kinds of people: the mother of the guy who does our payroll, the photographer, John Myers who owns the studio hosting the event, two talented New Media Design graduates from Rochester Institute of Technology, an independent printmaker, and the CEO of a major printing company. Consider how many people I met just because I wasn’t afraid to go up and say hi and get to know someone. They may have been just as curious about me as I was about them! And best of all, Graeme loved it too. He made a couple new friends and met several interesting people. Graeme had been won over. He decided that the RAF was an excellent organization, focused on marketing as well as advertising, and shook his head, disappointed that we hadn’t joined before. You can easily find tons of articles on the Web about why networking is good for your business, but I learned something about this from Graeme. He refuses to use the term “networking” because it connotes collecting acquaintances for your own selfish purposes. He insists that we work on “relationship building” because in his words, real relationships are built on sincerity and mutual respect! Building relationships is certainly not the only rewarding part. If you’re one of those Monday morning quiet coffee people, don’t be afraid to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, because you will learn new things (about fascinating people), make someone smile (just because you’re talking to them), and most importantly, overcome your dreadful fear of talking to strangers. Now, some of you may be saying “That’s easy for her to say, she sounds like a total ‘people person’, without a trace of shyness in her bones, unlike me!” Actually, you’d be surprised. Sure, I love people, and do get an enormous pleasure out of good conversation and meeting people, but I happen to also be Deaf. When I meet someone at a crowded, noisy event (like the wine-tasting), I am often forced to read people’s lips. Sometimes it isn’t easy, especially if the room is filled with people I don’t know, who may not be knowledgeable enough about Deafness to make eye contact when they’re speaking. It isn’t easy for either of us, but I refuse to give in, even after an embarrassing moment or two (or five!) of misunderstanding. I endure the repeated need to smile apologetically, especially after asking someone multiple times, “say again?”, “pardon me?” or even the less polite “huh?” Eventually, some people become comfortable and begin to understand how to interact with a Deaf person, after which a rewarding conversation begins and we learn one another’s story. Sometimes hearing people are embarrassed or uncomfortable, so they reject or ignore me. Perseverance is the key in these cases, and I simply “try, try, and try again.” The fact that I do step forward, risking embarrassment, showing my true self, my identity, a large part of which is my Deafness (and yes, the ‘D’ is intentionally capitalized), shows that the challenges we face may be different, but we all benefit in the same way: personal and professional growth. Now, if you’ll excuse me… is that someone I haven’t met yet?

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