In the Authentic Connections Method™, we talk a lot about storytelling. When people listen to stories it accesses the parts of their brain related to socialization and bonding. This is different than learning facts.
Think about the difference between reading a history book about the First War of Scottish Independence and watching the movie Braveheart. The history book gives you all the important facts and dates, but the movie makes you feel for the characters. You will remember details much longer and the details will have more meaning when they are tied to your emotions. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, people won’t remember what you said or what you did, they will remember how you made them feel.
Sharing stories with a stranger is a very efficient way to create common ground between you and the other person. In the Authentic Connections Method™, we refer to this common ground as The Third. The Third is not your perspective or my perspective, it is a third perspective that we both share. Over time we add more and more to our Third and our connection grows stronger.
At ConnectingIRL we recommend you prepare a short story, 30-seconds story you can use when you meet someone randomly. You might be in a waiting room or standing in line and you strike up a conversation with the person next to you.
There are many common topics that people make small talk about in these situations. The weather and what do you do for a living are two really common ones. It is a great idea to have a short story about yourself that you can jump to from common topics such as these. Your goal is to establish something you have in common, so you want to try and create a story with which most people identify.
When I worked for American Airlines, I spent years building software to facilitate the fulfillment of ancillary products. This would be the history book version of the answer to the question—so, what do you do? Instead of the history book version, I would typically respond with, “I work for American Airlines. My team and I figure out ways to charge new fees.”
The purpose for this tongue-in-cheek answer? I hope that by using my dry sense of humor, I can make the other person feel something. Since almost any adult has experienced flying on an airline and dealing with fees, this became the basis for building our Third.
Most of these conversations are quick and don’t lead to anything more, but hopefully you at least make a connection with another human being and leave them with a good impression of you.
Sometimes these quick conversations lead to a new friend or business contact. I was once was at a dinner party at a restaurant in Phoenix. I was chatting with a man at the party. He asked what I did for a living. This was the perfect opening to use my fees line and I did. The man took the hook and replied that he traveled a lot on the airline for his work. He was much better at storytelling than I am. He made it kind of a mystery, feeding me little details and waiting for me to ask for more.
I followed up by asking what he did. He replied that he played guitar, so in addition to airlines we added music to our Third. After a few more questions and answers, I discovered that the man I was talking with was Scotty Johnson, lead guitarist for the Gin Blossoms. We never really became friends, but we see each other occasionally and chat. We keep expanding our Third by exchanging stories. Our wives are both in writing and publishing. I wouldn’t be afraid to contact Scotty if I needed an introduction and I don’t think he would hesitate to contact me if he needed something.
Storytelling helps you make connections quickly. We never know when the opportunity to make a connection will come up. You might meet your best friend or your next big client, so it is a good idea to be prepared.