“How old are your dogs?”, she asked.

My reply, “I’ll share their age if you’ll share yours.

[Insert big robust laughter here]

This happened at my local postal service office yesterday.

How many times have I been asked about my dogs’ age? And why do people choose to inquire about a dog’s age to enter into conversation?

My dogs, happy for me to share their age (now can we have a treat, please??)

Well, it’s one way to connect with another person. It’s a pretty safe topic, one that anyone with a pooch can generally answer as well, therefore opening up a conversation (first move).

And it was a complete surprise when I offered to tell the asker of the question, if they divulged their age first.

  • Unexpected? Very.
  • Fun opener? Most definitely.
  • Not good for everyone? Maybe.

Yet connectors who are being themselves can respond (as they will anyway) as they wish, in good humor.

My goal in my reply was to see what that person would say.

I didn’t care two shakes about her age and I wasn’t being disrespectful; I wanted to see what she’d say.

She totally dug it, replying, “eighty-five!” with enthusiasm. I shared the dogs’ ages (9+, 1+) and then mine, since I was happily playing along. Then, the other person waiting in line as well, jumped in too. Pretty soon we were all laughing and carrying on, sharing a new encounter together, that everyone present was getting a kick out of. Including Sharon, My Fine USPS counter pro.

To examine what happened, here’s how I’d map it out the connectivity that happened.

  1. First Move: the other person inquired about my dogs’ age; I responded.
  2. Y In The Road: She decided that she was cool with replying, and did so. And then kept the conversation building.
  3. Choose Your Path: She left before me and as I was walking out the door and down the sidewalk toward home, a car honked at me – it was her! Waving and smiling as she drove away. I waved back, grinning.

The experience made me smile all the way home and I shared it with My Fine Husband as well that night.

Connectivity can and does happen anywhere you let it happen.

So what’s next? FUFT, my friend. FUFT. Check it out in the video here.

I’ll keep you posted, so to speak, on the next time I see her. Can’t wait…

BONUS: Here’s a fun tribute sung by Nellie McKay, courtesy of TED

Giving Your Self Permission

  1. Learn to give yourself permission to meet people – to make that First Move in making contact with another person. The first move is what begins all Connecting possibilities. Keep it simple, upbeat, neutral and polite.
  2. Learn to give yourself permission to not meet people, though not out of being shy or any kind of -vert. When you’re really not in the head space of being open to a new contact (aka First Move) then either gear up for it mentally or pass, regroup and plan to do so later (and soon).

There are a bunch of crappy self-imposed barriers and false boundaries we’ve put up for ourselves in connecting with people.

Give yourself permission to try it, to enjoy it, to be a day brightener for someone else in the doing. The only ‘failure’ here, to use a trendy term, is to not try.

I find that when I make a first move, I inevitably feel better too – happier and more connected overall.

Permission granted.

First Moves On The Metro , aka DC Subway

“As you may know, the Metro isn’t a place where people talk to each other.”

So opened the conversation with Rachel following the inaugural 5 Day Connecting Challenge. She shared that, inspired by the Challenge, on her way home via the Metro, she decided to make first moves with people she didn’t (yet) know.

She looked around the subway car, noticed that people had headphones in (a clear DON’T talk with me signal), had their heads down and otherwise were tuned into their own worlds. So what did she do?

  1. She removed her own earplugs and noticed a woman next to her reading a book. Rachel then asked the woman what she was reading; the woman replied; Rachel listened. A few more sentences (beginning conversation) were exchanged and the result: Rachel made a successful First Move and learned of a book she now has on her reading list.
  2. She also noticed a person in a wheelchair readying to disembark. Instead of sitting, doing her own Rachel thing, she took action and helped clear the way for that person. Not out of pity, out of connection and a service mindset of helping another person. Boom.

No matter where you are, you can make the First Move to connecting.

She told me of one other story too, same day, same scenario. And how did she feel about doing all of this?

Invigorated, conscious, aware, inspired. Safe and with a sense of satisfaction that she changed her actions to move toward connecting in a rich, if seemingly unconventional, environment. Big props to Rachel.

Who else has a story of connectivity, started with the First Move? Please share it below in the comments. When we learn how others connect, we realize new ways to we can take that First Move.

Thanks to Rachel, and everyone tuned into connecting. Keep Connecting – on purpose and with purpose.

Join us for the January 23rd live YouTube broadcast of the second part of the 5DCC; I’ll take your questions live too. Register by sending me an email at ginger@gingerjohnson.com

The First Three Steps Of Connectivity

Connecting with other people is magic. At least, it can be.

Here are my first three steps to help you feel more confident and comfortable in connecting with soon-not-to-be-strangers:

  1. First Move – How To Make Contact
    1. Mindset: open (required), relaxed, calm, happy
    2. Make a simple, open-ended, pleasant comment or ask an innocuous question of another person you encounter – grocery store, bus stop, hallway, subway.
    3. Tactic: a calm manner presenting a non-threatening conversation starter is usually welcome to someone you don’t know. If they seem hesitant, don’t push it. Start anew.
  2. Sean (l), Larry (my CSO), me & Erika (PR) loving the connectivity of life!

    Y In The Road – What Do I Do After The First Move?

    1. Mindset: open (required), relaxed, calm, happy
    2. Listen to the response of the other person; if they seem open to conversation, keep going as comfortable. The Y offers either Continue or Move On.
    3. Tactic: being calm and pleasant makes a lot of people happy. Keep the conversation light and positive, decide if this is a Contact you want to move into Connection.
  3. Choose Your Path – Moving Forward From The Y
    1. Mindset: open (required), relaxed, calm, happy
    2. Following the first two or more sentences of conversation, you choose to grow the contact into a connection, assuming that if you choose the Y of Move On, you do so.
    3. Tactic: Staying calm and pleasant inspires the others you talk with to reply and perhaps keep talking, maybe even beginning a new relationship.

These 3 steps will get you started. And they’re covered on my video here. (FYI – three separate segments coming soon; if you subscribe to my YouTube channel, you’ll be notified when they’re up. Props to my filmmaker Sean.)

When you’ve got the right skills and mindset, it’s entirely possible to meet many new people every day. In fact, it becomes fun! Mario Forleo gets it. And so do I.

Tell me how they work (in the comments below) – I’m interested in your connecting success.

p.s. for those curious, CSO = Chief Support Officer

What Dog Walking Tells Us About Mindset

A lot of weekday mornings I get up with My Fine Husband, eat breakfast and feed our fabulous kids (four legs each) and walk MFH to the bus stop. It’s a peaceful and enjoyable, comforting even, ritual we all enjoy. Fresh air, early morning foray into the quiet world that’s soon to be very busy with activity.

Cuteness aside, dogs are master connectors.

As we were walking this morning, it hit me full in the brain. WHOA! My kids are a perfect example of what it means to connect.

  1. They walk, enthusiastically, in front of us – pulling on the leashes (or running ahead if they are off leash).
  2. They’re trusting that whatever is ahead is impatiently worth getting to.
  3. Their heads are up, and noses busy, with possibilities.
  4. They’re happy to meet anyone, any number of legs and wheels, they encounter. They’re terrific at making the First Move.

They are, as my friend Jane says, completely present.

Connectivity requires an open mind and clear windshield to possibilities. My dogs already have this figured out. I’m so glad it registered with me, very consciously, this morning.

Think about the path ahead – and how you plan to navigate it: if your mind is open, and you’re willing to investigate – if you’re willing to make that First Move required for connection, then you’re ready.

Go for a walk with dogs. They’re great at teaching us to connect.

Bulletin Board Story

My local post office and the crew is important to me.

Mailing letters and packages has been a part of who I am for, well, ever. Mail is a connection to other people across the world, sending them goods at a remarkably low rate. When I’m at the Office, invariably one of the three staffers is there on duty, at the counter taking care of customers.

To be transparent: when I first moved to my town, the people in the post office were a shadow of what they are now. I’m not sure precisely why and I even tried to avoid going. The attitude of the former manager was a downer to say the least. No smile, ever, no greet, no thank you, no enthusiasm for the incredible opportunity that postal service employment can be: service, in a tied house, so to speak.

I was glad to see a new manager and – I think – a new crew member join the fray not too long after I realized the (former) staff was gone. Not knowing the circumstances that lead to the change, I can only hope that the former staffers moved onto something else that made them happier, which lead to much more positive interactions with their customers.

Are you connected to your local Postal Service crew?

During one of my visits post-staff change, I inquired with one of the crew about a bulletin board I had seen hanging in the lobby. I thought it was a great idea – a perfect place for community announcements since so many people come and go to the post office.

I noticed that the board was gone – so I asked what happened to it. The person I was working with at the counter, told me the story. In wrapping up the story of Where It Had Gone, he finished with, “Well, I tell everyone else [this/different sanitized version], yet I know you so…”

Connection.

I was privately grateful to both feel like he knew me enough, was comfortable enough to tell me more than the public sanitized version and that I knew part of a story that others don’t necessarily know. Not that it’s any great shakes in the big scheme of things knowing the whole story…. Yet the confidence he brought me into, easily and comfortably, telling me he trusted me. I appreciate and value that trust.

Trust is a fundamental element of connecting and connectivity. When you can trust someone, you can really both help them better (serve them) and ask for help more comfortably and confidently. When trust is in place, connectivity can really sing! It’s so exciting.

I told My Fine Husband this story that night at dinner. He smiled and told me, as he’s told me before, that I’m so good at connecting with other people. That I make them feel important and am good at including them in the conversation.

To me, there’s no other way. You connect with people, in the real world, in a human way. It’s mindset + tactics. Why wouldn’t I connect, is another way to think about it.

Answer: no reason.