I have a very direct and economical performance style. I am not into talking to people or meeting people without a purpose. This is the way I am and I always thought this is the way it is supposed to be. Lately I have been having second thoughts.
Case in Point, meet Ferhat: PhD Fashion Marketing expert, who works for PRADA, and ended up at my table at Namli Gurme in Istanbul. The place was packed because it was the month of “Ramazan” (The fasting month for Muslims) and it was breakfast time (which is at sunset). The place was packed, and I was seated at a table alone. So the host asked me if it is OK to let another person sit at my table. “Sorun Degil,” I said in broken Turkish, which means no problem. After all I was in a good mood and ready to have my food at one of my favorite gourmet places in Istanbul, and for a bargain price, which always makes me happy.
Ferhat and I had a very enriching conversation. He told me about how he got into fashion marketing, what he likes about his job, and he gave me some tips about Turkish cuisine, Turkish universities, and even world affairs. We even shared each others’ dishes. It was awesome. Unfortunately, I had to run to a meeting immediately after the meal, so we talked for an hour or so. But by the time I left, we were talking to each other and joking around like best friends.
I am so glad I met Ferhat. Lately I have been put in many situations like this, where I get a chance to meet and get to know people for no business or social reason whatsoever. Conversations of this type carry through based on eagerness to learn from ordinary people, who turn out to be so extra ordinary.
I have had quite a few friendships develop out of these encounters. People are so interesting and they have a lot to tell and experiences to share. I like the internet and the social media interaction no problem there, but nothing replaces meeting and chatting with people face to face.
I have also changed my conversation and discussion style lately in these encounters. Here are the things that I learned and they make these encounters more fun:
- Do not rush into talking. Give people and yourself some “silent space” I call it. Even if the other person rushes into speaking, smile, take a bit of time, then speak. It will help the other person and yourself be present and be at ease with being, without trying to portray an image or send a message. But remember to show a friendly smile when silent.
- Take breaks in the discussion. Let the other person and yourself rest a bit from the conversation.
- Let the conversation be two-sided. Do not let them speak too long without you giving feedback, and vice versa.
- Ask people questions beyond the obvious ones. Don’t go for questions like “what is your name,” and “what do you do?” in the beginning. Start with an engaging informal statement, like:”The place is packed,” or you can go with a good conversation starter like “The weather is really nice outside,” or “so what is good at this place?” or anything else. Then go back to names, work, etc.
- Remember to breathe. I noticed my breathing pattern is different when I talk to people than when I am alone. Usually when alone I breath deeper ad calmer, with less tension in my muscles. But I notice when I talk to people, my breathing becomes a bit shallower and my muscles tense a bit. Breathing will allow you to relax and enjoy the conversation more.
I am revising my rules of meeting people thanks to Ferhat and many others. It is very enjoyable to chit chat with others, when there is no negotiating, selling, or convincing to do. Just relaxing and having a fun conversation.