Written by Steve Gwisdalla

April 13, 2019

To be funny? To be honest? To be insightful? All of the above? These things, along with countless others continue running through my head as I seek topics to share with whomever stumbles across my little scribblings.

Perhaps the view of the world I seek lies in eyes of my 9 year old. My wife and I have been teaching him about strangers for years. It is sad we must incorporate such tarnishes on an innocent mind so early, but such are the times we live in. Driving to the store one day, and without having had the “stranger talk” with him for several days, I hear from the back seat; “Daddy, all the people in those cars on the road are strangers.” Excellent! My internal parenting meter is pinning very close to “SuperDad” at this point!  I am feeling like a great father, as he has clearly internalized our previous conversations. Then the follow-up. “And we are strangers to them, Daddy.” There it was! I called it, “The Flip.” Our precious little man had taken the idea of strangers and flipped it around in his mind and that got me thinking.

Truth be told, I haven’t stopped thinking about that since he said it. Please don’t think of me as a super deep thinker or over-analyzer here folks.  Anyone who has or had little ones can attest that my voracious approval of his statement has only reinforced his correctness of said statement. He says it no more than 10 times a trip now, whether to Grandma’s house or to the supermarket. I vividly remember a day when he was 4 and pointed to people from the basket of the shopping cart and say in that unfiltered 4 year old bellow, “Daddy, that person is a stranger right there!” Awkward smiles usually follow. I remind him of “inside voices” and “it isn’t polite to point at people” in full on parent-speak, but I see the confusion and almost hurt in his eyes until I relent and agree that yes, that 80 year old woman buying Activa was indeed, a stranger.

This giant revelation by Little Man got me thinking about how this applies in other ways. Yes, there is a big bad world of strangers out there. But we are big bad strangers to the world too. So if our business is in any way hoping to do business with some of those “strangers” out there, how can we knock down those “stranger” walls and network, and get to do the business we seek? What follows are just some thoughts and ideas to help my adult friends out there not think of the business world as “strangers.” I will offer 5 ways to bridge the “stranger divide.”

1. Look the Part

A lot of advertising dollars have been made on the concept of “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This has never been more true during this period of “Kardashianism.” That is, where it is more important to consider the wrapping paper than what’s underneath. I am not suggesting we all go out and blow our next 6 mortgage payments on a new wardrobe. Merely, take pride in your appearance and you will be infinitely more approachable than if you choose to wear your college sophomore t-shirt/sweat pant ensemble.  

2. Do Your Homework

If you do have a chance to meet someone or network in a professional setting, do your best to learn who you are meeting and have your homework done. There is nothing worse than that uneasy silence when a potential business connections says they work for “XYZ Company” and have you heard about their new product launch? No? A walk of shame is sure to follow. As best as you able, know who you are meeting and be well read in the spheres and orbits you patrol in your professional world.  

3. Fake It Till You Make It

Strangers are scary. Just ask my son. No one is saying you will become a networking machine overnight. The only way to overcome this fear is by actually…*gulp*…striking up conversations. Start small. The Weather. Sports. Reality T.V. Anything that will begin a conversation. If you are terror stricken and cannot find the nerve no matter how hard you try, try it out on yourself in the bathroom mirror. Don’t laugh. The prelude to several 5-figure deals being closed by yours truly have begun with conversations in the bathroom mirror.  

4. Fear Is Healthy, Sort Of!

Fear is nature’s way of letting you know just how far removed from your comfort zone. Fear is good. Fear will grow your comfort zone and the more you stretch it, the better. Remember, at the end of the day, nothing said, good or bad, positively or negatively is personal. It is all business. Rejection is just acceptance in it’s infancy. Nurture that rejection and let it grow. Strangers in the business world are untapped sources of contacts, revenue, and knowledge. Strangers to a young boy are scary. Don’t let those 2 worlds inter-mingle.  

5. Words are Power (Verbal More Than Written)

Expand your vocabulary. Plain and simple, this is a honest to goodness, no doubt about it way to make inroads faster than your competition. Try to incorporate 1 new word a day into your vocabulary. Truly master it. Don’t worry if your fantasy football buddies make fun of you. Remember to speak like the person you want to be. Practice makes perfect.

Think about those times you wish you had a do-over when meeting someone. A potential client. A potential business partner. Go through what you would have said if you could do it over. Practice, practice practice. Strangers will continue to be big and scary to my little guy. Don’t let them be for you!

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