On Connecting To Strangers
The Sidewalk Talk Blog
Most of us are on the hunt to feel better, feel more excited, and feel inspired in some small way every day. We pay big bucks or go to great lengths to find more excitement and good feeling.
I am with you. Life can hem us into boring routines or busyness that make us feel like we are robots on auto-pilot.
What if there were a way that was fast, free, and easy to pack more good feeling and excitement into your day to day life?
Monday I had to call AT&T to switch out my office internet. Ok, I am laughing. I am only imaging you are wondering where this is going. Stay with me.
For those of you outside the US, AT&T is a big company that offers phone and internet service. Calling any big company is a daunting task as you are sure to be on hold for a long time and often have someone disgruntled on the other end pick up your call.
I get through and a young woman answers, named Jolynn, to help me out. Because I am living in Germany now, none of my ways to confirm my identity were going to work for various reasons. Jolynn apologized and said, "I am sorry, Traci, but this is going to take awhile."
So here we were, hanging out on the phone, waiting for her to punch in all the things she had to punch in, a moment that often turns adversarial, but then Jolynn did something.
She asked me a question. And she was genuinely interested in my response.
"So why did you move to Germany?" she asked.
"I moved for love" I said.
"You did? How did you meet this person?" Jolynn said.
"He was the nerdy foreign exchange student in high school that I had a crush on. We lost track of each other for 12 years and then, out of the blue, he called my father and asked him for my phone number and came to California for a visit."
"You are kidding me?" she said.
"No, I swear." I laughed.
"Wow after twelve years. And how long have you been together?" she said and I could hear her grin, as she typed away.
"We have been married seventeen years."
Our conversation flowed. I asked her all sorts of questions about her life. She shared. She was young. Single. Not so sure there is a partner out there for her. We had little bond going on.
Jolynn kind of made my day and I think I made hers.
And all she had to do was ask a question and be genuinely interested.
I could feel her celebrating with me. Taking pleasure in my story. Being moved. And then I was equally moved to hear about her.
Her questions and genuine listening created a whole new world of possibility.
New York Times Journalist, Kate Murphy, has a new book called, You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters that is making the rounds on talk shows and podcasts. You can check out her own article about her book here.
Murphy says learning to ask the right questions leads to the talker revealing way more than they normally would. And if you follow up with a lot of good listening and genuine interest, you are sure to get a more fulfilling story and, as research shows, a greater sense of connection.
I think Jolynn asked me some great questions that would have made Kate Murphy proud. And I obliged. I opened up and walked down memory lane with her and she got to be a passenger on that romantic joy ride with me.
So look - go to the spa. Spa's are nice. Go get that sweet treat or check out the latest rom com. But maybe, just maybe, if we all asked really good questions and were genuinely interested, there is a lot more joy and excitement to be served up with very little cost or effort.
On your way to get a sandwich? Ask the person making it something. Make it a good one. "What is the weirdest type of sandwich you have ever made?"
Give it a try. And come share in the comments how it goes.
I am a woman, therapist, wife, mom, friend, listener, and founder/leader of Sidewalk Talk. You can subscribe to my couples therapy list here.