Getting Past the Surface
Have you ever had that moment when you’re out with friends and then they share some information about their past and you say, “Wow, I didn’t know that about you!”? Sometimes you can be friends with someone for years or even in a relationship and still have things to learn about each other.
If this is true for those in our social circle what about people we don't know, yet we believe we know who they are based from what we see on the surface? Here are some tips for getting past invalid judgments or superficial rapport to a more real bond.
1. When having a conversation with someone you know or just met, listen to what they are saying without waiting for your turn to speak. If you aren’t concerned with hurrying to get your two cents in and patiently wait to add your perspective, you will be providing more of your full attention to the person in your company, which in return they will appreciate being heard. Also, stay present. Do not get distracted by people in the room or your phone. Be in the moment and you will realize how much you get to know about your companion.
2. Instead of asking the usual “How are you?” ask “What has been the best part of your day today?” You may throw them off guard, but then a positive conversation can get started as you both share what happened that brought happiness. Psst, this is not the question you have to use, it’s just a suggestion to go beyond the typical banter. Ask about an update on someone or a situation you know matters to them. Ask them a silly question like if their life was a movie what would be in the funny outtakes/gag reel? Think of any question that can provide an answer with more detail or a one word response. If you need assistance do an online search for alternative questions to, “how are you?” or conversation starters.
3. If you appreciate diversity and want to know someone because they are a part of a culture that is different from yours, be respectable. Do not ask where they’re from, what their name means, or what they’re mixed with. Let them share that information on their own if they want. When you pry and continue to re-word the questions because they are not giving you the answer you want, this means they do not want to share. Respect their right to not share and change the subject. Because truthfully it is not really our business what race someone is or where they’re from. They’re a person, a human being just like you. Just because someone is a part of a culture that speaks a language, honors traditions, and wears a style that differs from a culture you identify with, that doesn’t make them entertainment or a subject on the National Geographic channel to be studied.
4. If you fear someone because they are different from you, start a conversation with them. You may realize you have more in common than you could have imagined, or that there is nothing to be afraid of. If they work in your building, introduce yourself and say what you do or what department you’re in and that you are working on getting to meet everyone. At that moment they may share their name and what position they have as well. Or perhaps it's someone who frequents the same coffee shop as you, just casually say hi and introduce yourself. If they only share a name and you’re not getting a “vibe” they want to continue speaking, just say it was nice to meet them and say their name, i.e. “It was nice to meet you Joe, enjoy the rest of your day.” From then on when you see “Joe” say hi and include his name. When you use someone’s name that makes them feel special you remembered their name and will also help in having them be more comfortable to speak with you. If you have time ask some of the questions in option 2. Next thing you know you both will start having more to say to each other and get to know one another more. If you unfortunately do not get the chance to build a connection with “Joe” don’t make assumptions about him. Everyone has their own story and battles they are dealing with. Every one of us end up the way we are from what we have learned and experienced. If you do not get to know where “Joe” is coming from, don’t make up stories in your head, share them, and then convince others its truth. Let him be. Yet, I’m rooting for you two to end up as friends!
Enjoy getting to know people and those close to you better! Stay engaged during dialogue, have more in depth conversations, allow yourself to know people for who they are and not who you assume them to be, choose to be respectful, and kind.