Whether you are a global nomad or someone who likes the suburban life, you want to be able to connect with people and avoid those awkward long pauses after you greet someone. You know the ones where you are staring at each other and scrambling to utter something coherent only for it to come out as utter gibberish-okay maybe that's extreme- but the point remains that most people crave connection.
So how can you connect with people?
It's about finding common ground and here are three ways I do it:
Geography, Sports, and Pop Culture
When I was in 8th grade, my history and world affairs teacher Ms. McDonald decided that it was a good idea to have us learn all the countries, major cities, and major bodies of water in the world. On top of that, since I was in an American middle school I also needed to know all the states and capitals of the 50 states in the United States of America. It turns out her idea was a fantastic idea. When I meet someone new (and in NYC this happens almost daily), I ask them where they are from. Once they tell me where they are from, I usually follow up with a
"is that near..." Or "I've been there" (if I have been there).
This almost always causes them to crack an incredulous smile as if to say "wow not many people know that"
SCORE! As you can imagine, the conversation usually flows better from then on. Take the time to know your surroundings and the world around you.
The next category is Sports
When I was in elementary school in Nigeria, the only sport I knew and loved was football or soccer depending on where you are from but I quickly realized that this had to change especially when I moved to the aforementioned American international middle school in Burkina Faso as a 10 year old. If I wanted to make friends, I had to learn about the sports they played so off to the library I went. I checked out all the magazines and books on basketball to start with and then I moved on to tennis. Of course now you can just use the Internet which I used as well but I just felt more comfortable starting my research off with leather bound books.
The immediacy and accessibility of the internet did draw me in more though and I started to spend hours in front of the computer screen bookmarking sites and printing pages. My parents can confirm that I had hundreds of papers that I had printed off from the internet stacked underneath my bed categorized in folders clearly marked with what sport they were associated with. What can I say I fell in love with sports. It essentially was my first love.
Lucky for you, you don’t have to do all that. A quick subscription to ESPN online or a quick change of the channel to ESPN for 20 minutes will give you all the pieces of information you need to know. If you don’t want to do that, you can just download Bleacher Report on your smart phone and customize your news to get alerts on players and teams you want to follow.
Now when you meet that person from that city that you recognized in geography class, you can ask him or her if he or she follows the team of that city. Get it?
And then there is Pop Culture
You know, music, sports, TV shows, books, games etc. This might be the easiest of the three. You will be hard pressed to find anyone that doesn’t at least do one of the following:
- Watch something on TV/online,
- Read books/magazine,
- Listen to music, or
- Play video games
If you find that one person then maybe that person just doesn’t want to be connected with. You don’t even have to buy tabloids to know what’s going on. When you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, just grab the nearest magazine or tabloid and flip through it (yes guys it’s ok for you to do so also), then drop it off when it is your turn to pay for your items. With movies, try and see at least two of the blockbuster ones a year and you will definitely get a conversation going just by saying how you feel about these films because everyone’s a critic. With music, turn on the radio or go to vevo.com and you will see what's new. With books, read two to three of the bestsellers a year and you should be fine. There's no excuse also because even if you are a slow reader, 365 days is more than enough time to finish two or three books.
Geography, Sports, and Pop Culture people. If not all, at least try one and connect away!