It was supposed to be a quiet dinner out with our friend Tara and home by 8. But dinner and great conversation meant we wanted to linger, so we walked to a nearby rooftop bar for a drink. It was closed, and we debated heading home before we spotted a lively place on the corner that was usually closed when we walked by.
“¡Adelante!” said the door man, adjusting his funky straw hat and motioning for us to come in.
We found a table and saw the band sound checking before the show, and we told ourselves we’d have just one drink before the music got too loud to talk and then we’d go home.
Then the group of coworkers at the next table began taking photos together, obviously celebrating an event. I offered to take a group photo of them, and instead they roped us into the photos. This started some lively back-and-forth banter as they tried to figure out why Warren had two dates and they had none.
The leader of the group, whom we’ll call El Jefe, is head of a large regional business in Mexico. They were all in Guanajuato for a conference and went out to celebrate their coworker’s birthday. They jokingly tried convincing me El Jefe was the father of the 12 men at the table, but even though I’m not fluent in Spanish I’m not an idiot.
After telling El Jefe generously that I thought he could be no more then 30 and therefore not the father of these men, he smiled. I then asked how old he thought I was, expecting a return compliment. He then said “40” and I shot back with a falsely offended, “pinche cabron!” This is when the entire table burst into laughter and he smiled and bought me a tequila.
The singer and guitar player came near our table to get some food in between sets, and El Jefe asked for a photo with them. Then Warren started chatting them up, telling them how much we liked the show. They are a husband and wife duo, and the singer’s mom and brother were also at the show. They took us over to meet them.
Before the night was over we had a date to the singer’s brother’s birthday party in a nearby city for Sunday, they helped Warren negotiate a better price on a bag he wanted from a vendor in the square, and Warren agreed to build the band’s new website.
All in all, a pretty good ending to our “quiet dinner.”
How You Greet the World
Tara first mentioned the reaction we get from strangers as we were walking down the street on her first day here. “Everyone is so open to you!” she said. Then she mentioned how often we approach other people to say hello, make a friendly comment, or just say thank you for a service. Tara calls it “how you greet the world,” and it’s not something we really paid attention to before.
Over the 3 weeks she was here, Tara said she finally realized that people welcome us because we expect them to. When we approach them in an open and friendly manner, almost everyone responds in kind.
(We had this kind of reaction before we left the US, so you certainly don’t have to go to Mexico to experience it.)
How is the World Greeting You?
Are you getting the kind of reactions you want when meeting new people? You might be thinking back to your school days, bemoaning the difficulty of making friends as an adult. But it’s not really that you had more friends; you just had more interactions. And there’s an easy way to fix that: by increasing the number of interactions.
But first, a little problem solving on your outgoing message to the world. If you’d like to meet more new people and it’s just not happening, there are some things you can do to pinpoint the roadblock:
- How do you present yourself to new people?
- Confidently approach them and look for a common point of interest
- Wait for them to notice/approach you
- What do you do when you see someone in need (to have a door opened, to get directions, to take a group photo)?
- Avert your eyes and keep walking
- Offer to help
- When you are standing next to someone in line or on a bus/train, what do you do?:
- Mind your own business
- When speaking to someone for the first time, how do you start?
- With a compliment, question, or point of common interest (“How do you know the host?”)
- By talking about yourself
- How do you speak to the store clerks, taxi drivers, wait staff, flight attendants, and other people who help you throughout the day?
- With a smile and friendly word of thanks, more if the situation allows
- As little as possible
- What does your body language say to other people?
- Confident, head up, smile on your face
- Head down, arms crossed, earbuds on
If you answered any of the second options, there is a reason why people are not as responsive to you as you’d like (strangers and acquaintances alike). People want to know that their social advances will be accepted (it’s a caveman thing), and if you do not make the first move or at least show that you’re open to meeting new people, they likely won’t make the first move. That means it’s up to you.
How to Meet New People (gently)
You might be saying, “But I don’t want to make the first move!”
It’s okay. There’s a great way to ease into this and make you more comfortable approaching other people. If you grew up in a really small town you already know this: Say hello to everyone you meet on the street.
At first it will feel really weird, like you’re a social moron who can’t stay quiet. But what you’ll find is a slight shock on most people’s faces followed by a return hello. As you become more confident in your hellos, your face will open up and people will see your hello coming before you open your mouth. It’s a conditioning for your face that will show other people you’re receptive to meeting them before you even open your mouth.
Sure, some people will snub you, and some will even ask you why you’re so damn happy. Brush it off. You’ll find the vast majority of people responsive to your hello, and from there it’s just a gradual process of extending those hellos into initial conversations and later friendship.
- One of our friends just visited us in Mexico and we met her in the wine aisle of a grocery store in South America.
- We met a woman on a train in Barcelona who 2 days later drove us to France just to picnic and spend the day together.
- And that birthday party we were invited to in Leon, Mexico? We stayed for 24 hours, enjoying an overnight with the family, a giant breakfast together, and a short tour of the city before returning home. We’ve been adopted into the family and expect to see them several more times before we leave Mexico.
Making the first move, opening yourself up to random friendships, and expecting to have great interactions throughout the day will greatly enhance the odds of making new friendships in unexpected places.
Because how you greet the world is how the world greets you back.
Bienvenidos, mi amigo.
Did we tell you that Strip Off Your Fear: Radiate the Confidence Within has a new cover? It’s gorgeous, and it better matches the strong, vibrant message inside. You can get your copy in print or ebook here and start approaching strangers and friends alike with confidence.