I spoke at an event recently where one of the pieces of advice I gave was encouraging the audience to develop more diversity within their own networks. I suggested that that they find people with different life experiences, come from different backgrounds, education, creative interests and intellectual pursuits and find a way to build relationships with these people. I explained that a world of new possibilities are out there just waiting to be experienced in large part through the connections and relationships we develop along the way.
I mean, if we always follow the same pack of dogs, our view, our attitudes, our perspectives and of course our experiences never change right? And how boring is that?
It really hit a cord with one member of the audience in particular.
I was wrapping up my handshakes and autographing a few books when this young executive approached me with a question about my diversity comment. She asked, “As a self-acknowledged introvert, how did you find the courage to reach outside your comfort zone and build connections to people who are different from you?”
It was a fantastic question and one which was apparently on a lot of minds as I suddenly realized that several people were now hanging around waiting for my answer.
I asked her, “How did you find the courage to come up here and ask a question?”
She looked puzzled…so I continued.
“I mean life is about taking chances. Asking a question from the audience at a conference. Approaching the speaker after their presentation. Sitting down and saying hello to the person in front of you. In life you have to take chances. You have to step outside your comfort zone and say hello to a complete stranger, ask a thought-provoking question, compliment someone on something you notice about them. In a word you have to engage!”
I went on to explain that I made it a point to find people doing interesting things and conger up the courage to ask them about it. Sure, for an introvert, it was scary. Some people didn’t always respond in the manner in which I had hoped but, and this is the most important part, most did. I never would have gotten to know some of these people without opening my mouth and taking a chance.
“Much like you are doing right now, asking your question. You just have to belly up to the bar and take a shot. More often than not, the results will surprise and amaze you in terms of the responses you will get back.”
I believe we are all hardwired to want to engage in some form of conversation with other people. Most people, unless they are complete jerks, will be more than receptive when you show an interest in who they are, what they are interested in or what they are about. In fact, one place to get some real world practice is leveraging social media. In fact leveraging the enormous potential of social media tools it has become rather easy to learn what makes people tick simply by following what they put out on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus. The article links they share, the comments or observations they make, the quotes they share – all the “stuff” they put out believe it or not becomes a great way to practice engaging with someone. In fact isn’t that the primary reason people put stuff out on social media in hopes of catching someone’s attention. Delivering some value and yes, perhaps starting a conversation with someone they may have never met had it not been for someone taking a chance to engage with them.
“Diversity comes in all forms. Find people who are interesting and have experience in things that you’d like to learn about. Seek them out and ask them questions. The good ones will take the time to respond whether it’s live and in person, on Facebook or over Twitter.”
I have so many amazing people in my life. I am humbled by the amount of unique personalities, experiences and just plain coolness that resides within my network. I never would have gotten any of it had I not taken a chance, opened my mouth, asked a question and expressed an interest in getting to know them.
Go find your own diversity and you’ll flourish because of it.