The Business of Talking to Strangers
“Stranger danger” was not in my vocabulary as a kid, because I would never have DREAMED of talking to a person I didn’t know. (My mother was once mortified to hear me, at age two, firmly tell a friendly passerby, “Don’t look at me.” 😂😬)
It only took three decades, and the particular loneliness that comes with being self-employed, but I’ve finally come to relish meeting new people.
Before I started freelancing, I thought networking was a corny schmoozefest for people in ambiguous fields like “consulting”—a throng of young professionals smiling and nodding at each other ad infinitum. LinkedIn? Lol forget it.
Self-employment has made networking non-negotiable. Most of my clients find me through referrals, and those relationships take work to nurture. New connections take even more care. Plus, I’m learning to run a business, and the people who can help me most don’t always live in my city.
So! I network. I talk to strangers, on the phone or online, every day. And I LIKE IT!
I’m astonished by how nice it is to make these connections–to get excited about something together, say “I can help” or “I *need* help” and start an exchange that lifts both of us up. Yesterday I got to talk to a student from my alma mater about what it’s like to start a business, and this week alone I’ve connected and messaged with more than a dozen people on LinkedIn (the platform I swore I would never need in 2012), because I got brave enough to drop a link to my profile in a Facebook group.
This gets easier every time I do it. I think less about how to come across perfectly and more about how to come across as myself, and I’m finding a new sort of community in the process.
It probably also helps that I haven’t said “Don’t look at me!” to a nice stranger since 1992.