Get Out Of Our Heads (Issue 767)

In which we, those of us who are introverts,  are reminded to get out of our heads to engage with others at all possible moments.

Our first winter in the city of Cambridge. After last night’s swirling Nor’easter drove snow off the ocean through the Boston Harbor, this morning broke clear, still, and cold. While the main storm veered East many miles to our South, four inches of snow covered our sidewalks and streets. [Y’all may remember it was our turn to receive the 36” snowfall last year at this time.] To assess the work ahead, digging out the car in its parking space in front of our house, I pulled on my black fleece, took a breath, and stepped outside. IMG_0853

A boy, about seven years old, dressed in a dark gray snowsuit and bright yellow winter hat, was clearing snow from the cast-iron railing that borders our front garden. His dad, right behind him, was moving sidewalk snow into piles, clearing a pedestrian path.

“Good morning,” I called out.

“Good morning,” he replied, immediately expanded by his son, “I’m clearing snow from the railing!’

“Yes, and doing a good job, too,” I replied, smiling. “Thank you.”

His dad and I spoke for a few minutes about where best to pile the snow. I thanked him for their work and turned back to the house to retrieve gloves, hat, and snow shovel with which to attack the parking space.

As I pulled on my boots I wondered, “Who are they? You never introduced yourself. Are they employed by the company we hire to clear our driveway? Likely….but they were here hours ago. So, who was this guy? Why didn’t you introduce yourself?”

I stepped outside looking for the man and his son…. And they’d gone.

Ah, the Curse of the Task Focused Introvert. Now that they’d gone… I could think of several possible conversation streams beginning with complementing his son … on and on.

Yes, introverts can be friendly and yes, we can even be effective sales people. Sometimes… we forget that it’s “relationship first, then task.” Engage, connect, relationship first.

I practice, sometimes, walking the streets near my house. I watch as people approach me. If their eyes are up (even better if they glance at me), I smile and say a friendly “hello” or “good morning” or “watch out for the ice back there.” [That’s particularly effective on a summer day, I’ve learned.]90% of them are surprised;  most of them smile and say something semi-intelligible in response.

The same on airplanes… in that awkward period when we’re all standing up, looking everywhere but at each other, waiting for the cabin door to open so we can rush off to the rest rooms. I look at peoples’ faces… if they look back, even for an instant, I smile and say “hello” or start a short conversation.

It’s a way to be engaged, present, and engaged with others rather than listening to the voices in my head. And, it’s practice… it comes in handy during client on-site client visits.

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