Sometimes, we have to be “friends” with strangers.
As business people, as actors, or if you need help with something, or sell anything, networking is a skill we all need. In a setting where we can mingle and network we try to connect to people who are strangers. It’s almost like going into an audition, or in any place where you want people to like you, so you’re careful, and self-conscious. Sometimes it could be harder because of the setting. If it’s at a party, it could be loud AND there could be a lot of other people vying for each other’s attention. I try to look at it as an exercise in trying to be as open and comfortable as possible, so I can truly be myself, considering the circumstances.
The key is to not care, but care.
Meaning, to not care SO much, and give others so much power. This applies to auditioning, as well as other instances where you want people to like you. Don’t put people on a pedestal, making yourself someone lesser, and afraid of their judgement. Just focus on being present, open and really listen so you can react truthfully, but tactfully. With exception of the idea of “keeping your enemies closer,” people like to be with and work with people they like. It’s just human nature.
How to connect with others
When people network, they connect because they have common attitudes, beliefs, perspectives, or ideas. You have something in common that you’re passionate about, you will automatically feel more of a connection, maybe even a kindred spirit, but in any case, more comfortable, and able to express yourself to someone about something you both are excited about. That’s ideal, and even better if there are multiple mutual interests, but you have to be careful to gauge their actual interest, as they may only have a fleeting interest, and go with it to avoid awkwardness by having something to talk about. No one likes to feel uncomfortable or awkward. It’s never fun for anyone to feel like they are faking or trying too hard. If they show an initial interest in something that you have in common, just be wary not to wear them out. It can happen vice versa too. You may hastily feign an interest to feel comfortable, by not making them feel awkward.
How do you start
You can start by making a comment about something in a context they’d understand. Make eye contact, but don’t stare either. Look to where your heart takes you. What I mean, is to let your eyes land where they land when your focus is on being really connected to what you’re saying, not talking superficially, but feeling what you’re saying. Don’t fidget, don’t look all around, etc. Listen and watch for body language, and micro-expressions, to get clues, and the minuscule flags of common interests. Try to make everything as organic as possible. Let it flow, don’t force anything. Not saying anything is a double edge sword. If nothing comes to you, it should be ok. Don’t panic. You should feel ok about that, otherwise, you’ll look like you’re trying too hard. On the other hand, it might make them feel uncomfortable, forcing them to carry on a conversation, or, they may be ok with not saying anything also.
‘Open the door’
Otherwise, if you’re really trying to find a connection, make another relevant comment or ask a tactful question. I call this opening the door twice. Whenever there is someone I’m interested in making a connection with, I ‘open’ the door for them, twice. If they don’t walk through the first time, I offer them the opportunity one more time. After that, I”m done chasing, at-least for this time out, or until something comes up that warrants another try.
Either way, socially no one has to say anything. If no one is talking to you, don’t panic. Relax, chill, and sit back. People watch, enjoy the atmosphere. The attitude and perspective adjustment here is that’s you’re here, for a reason, you might as well enjoy yourself.
I’m not in the mood
If you’re not in the mood, and you don’t really want to be there, maybe you shouldn’t be there, but if you DO want to be there, then you need to start adjusting your attitude and perspective so you are. This is something actors need to do ALL the time, to get themselves in the mood to do or be something they currently are not. *This may involve some acting, but if you’re gonna fake it,.. fake it to make it. Meaning, only fake so much as to get yourself to where you would be if you were your best.
In the end, just … connect with yourself.
Be present and comfortable, the rest will follow.
So true. This is very important for life in general, but integral for acting and audtitioning! But how do I get myself to be comfortable?!? I will talk more about this in depth in another post, but for now, adjust your attitude, perspective or “fake it to make it.*” Do whatever it is you have to do to get there. To really really be grounded and present. Maybe you need to wear out your body with some exercise, so you can really get into your physical self. Maybe, it also means to get yourself emotionally connected, grounded and focused by listening to music you normally connect to over and over, until you connect and feel every lyric of the songs. The answer isn’t always to drink, though it could help, just not when you’re acting or auditioning.
Don’t over think it
Really truly try to enjoy yourself, otherwise, you’re going to come off as trying too hard. Don’t try so hard. Enjoy yourself! Have fun. Don’t put an importance on this person; that you HAVE to connect. Maybe you just don’t, fuck it, just don’t burn it. Then, you might say, “but I really need to connect, this guy is my boss” or whatever. Ok, then do it tactfully please.
So complicated right?
The key, I think, is fuck it. Be and feel comfortable, and don’t fake anything if you can help it. Be honest, so long as you’re tactful, and not disrespectful or judgmental. If you really connect, you will really connect. I mean, you want people to like you and connect with you, for YOU, not who you think they want you to be. This is just me. I’m not super aggressive. Some may say it’s better to be aggressive, as the end game is to make a professional connection. It’s a game, and you have to hook them in. Maybe that’s right, but I think there’s a balance. It’s just not something that comes easy to me.
Sometimes, I see other people be super aggressive and it works out well for them. I think that’s confidence. Maybe, my fear of being aggressive is just my insecurity of being judged. In that case, I’m really losing out and should practice being more aggressive no? I think another way to look at it is to do your best to be confident, and let your confidence lead you, may it be considered aggressive or not.
At Your Best, you’re confident
When I’m at my best, I have no problem being me, confident, and networking organically. At our best, I believe we are capable of so much. Not only confidence, but we all have other strengths too. Being aware of our strengths helps us to use them as tools and use them as selling points in pitching ourselves to others.
That’s it for this for now, but here’s something about our strengths I wanted to add, and below that, some other ideas I had for the Weekly Writes Prompt “Friends With Strangers,” followed by links to others’ contributions. For more on Attitude, Perspective and “Fake it To Make It” refer to my other posts, including “Attitude, Belief and Perspective” and “Create Belief.”
Gallup Organization’s Strength Finder
I did the ‘Strength Finder’ test once. The book is great, and fun to discover what innate talent and skills you have that really inform what you’d be really good at. I think they took many successful people and figured out individual traits they all had. The test figures out which ones you also possess, then with all the traits, you can sort of see what type of job would be good for you. Many organizations use this test to figure out how best to place an employee, based on their strengths. You can even take all of your traits and design the perfect job for yourself. They narrow you down to 5 traits.
My traits were: Woo, Intellection, Arranger, Inclusiveness, and Ideation. I think they may actually be in that order also. The book has descriptions of all traits, but these are my interpretations.
- Woo – I like to meet new people, get them to like me, and then go
meet more people.
- Intellection – I love to think. To problem solve, and find logic in things
or fill gaps in logic.
- Arranger – I like to organize things to their best arrangement,
reassess and rearrange as needed to keep things
at the best arrangement possible.
- Inclusiveness – This one works on two levels.
1. As a strength, it means I can be very through, and
inclusive of every idea, factor and angle that I can
come up with, otherwise, as a weakness, it could be
a detriment, as in some cases, I have difficulty
editing myself and I try to include
2. On another level, I’m sensitive and aware to
whether, those around me, may feel left out, or
aren’t contributing but may want to, OR whether
certain factors are not being represented.
- Ideation – I’m fascinated by ideas! Ideas excite me! I was called the ‘Idea Fairy’ in college for my ability to come up with ideas.
The inclusiveness I feel really adds to this strength, as then
I become really resourceful because I leave nothing out to
Now, if you were to put these traits together, can you imagine an ideal job for me given my interests?
I did. I thought I might want a job working for an organization’s HR, dealing with both internal and external educational training and well-being, including new employee training, orientation, programs & event planning.
Now I want to take a quick 30 mins to Free-Write some ideas I had in my original Free-Write on “Friends with Strangers,” which are at the very bottom.
If you can be friends,… with strangers, can one be strangers,… to friends?
Haven’t we all at some point felt we were strangers to ourselves or strangers to our friends? Maybe our friends have grown and moved on from us? I was super close friends with Miguel and Sean. I introduced them to each other. We because a tight group of friends. They were becoming my “boys.” The guys I call on to do anything and everything with. I then introduced them to the Gay Geeks of New York. As a group, we all were getting to know all these new people. Then, I eventually disappeared for various reasons. I’ll just say it had to do with being in a relationship, and depression, which resulted in my being addicted to games (particularly a Facebook game) and just being an overall hermit. Well, when I would finally get my ass out of the house, and saw Miguel and Sean, I think they’d be frustrated with me for a long while and maybe even resentful, but the both of them had gone on without me. Their relationship together, and their relationship to the Gay Geeks had grown and move on without me. I kinda felt like a stranger among my friends. To this day, I’m still a bit distinct, and haven’t been able to shorten the distance in our relationships to the way they used to be, but we all still care and I thank them for still trying.
This story, isn’t unique to them. I have other stories that made me feel a stranger with friends and maybe in some cases, strangers out of friends at some point in my life. Scott Franklin, Michael McAvoy, John Groo, Anthony Berry,… … some of the most important people in my life.
Or can one be stranger, with friends. Meaning, be more strange, when with friends?
I think everyone behaves differently with different groups of people. There are definitely people in my life were I behave more like a baby, a brat, etc. Who of my friends make me behave stranger? That would have to mean, stranger than I already normally am? This seems tough. I naturally more strange with those I’m most comfortable with, but only strange in the sense that I’m my most fully self-expressed which some my find strange. So, I guess, I’m more strange when I’m with friends in general, but really whomever I feel comfortable with? Even if it’s people I barely know, but somehow feel very comfortable with. OR maybe I’m just HAPPY. Happy = Confidence/My Best.
BUT, I have two types of strange behavior. One that comes out of happiness, and one out of depression. The depressed one is obviously more self-destructive and martyr-esque, whereas the happy one is really just be being fully self-expressed. Both strangeness could have a tint of acting out, and attention seeking. That’s why I’m probably a bit of an entertainer. Or why anyone is.There’s also another level of strangeness that comes out in public. If I ever feel threatened, paranoid or depressed, I may behave “strange,” or if I’m somehow trying to get attention or impress, I might act out in a strange manner. It all just seems like acting out. I don’t know.
I like climbing things
Anyhow,.. so, I am stranger, when I’m with friends in general. Friends who I feel comfortable with. But, also stranger in general when I’m with people I’m comfortable with. This only means that generally, I’m less strange, cause I’m not with people I’m comfortable with, and there for actually less myself. whereas, I’m more myself, when I’m comfortable, which is only stranger in comparison to when I’m not with those I’m comfortable with. Sounds natural.
Being friends with Strangers, but who or what are Strangers?
Another idea was Strangers, as an entity, group or organization. The Strangers, have been used as a name for a group of people before, it’s just a matter of what would Carl come up with :-). Why are they strangers, why are they called Strangers? Strangers to what? Strangers have been used to refer to visitors from another planet, dimension or anyplace other than our own. The idea that Strangers are aliens, and being friends with them, isn’t all that fun. That’s been done. Strangers as any of those mentioned previously aren’t so interesting anymore. Maybe more exciting would be if “Strangers” were a class or type of something? A type of ghost, a type of alien, type of visitor from another dimension, who are not only unfamiliars, but also “stranger” than the typical. Or even if, like in slasher films, the Strangers, are the unnamed killers who have invaded a home or town. No one knows them. They come into town, and,….
I’ll have to explore some of the ideas in this free-write sometime, ….
This is fun, I love playing with words. Multiple usage, meanings and breaking rules are fun.
The Weekly Writes Prompt: Friends with Strangers
The #WeeklyWrites prompt is given on Wed. & shared the following Tues. weekly. If you’re interested in participating and we’ll add you. Links to what others wrote with the writing prompt:
Miguel Morales Ramos
Free-Write “Friends With Strangers”:
Friends With Strangers As a verb? and as a noun
Strangers with friends – To be a stranger to friends
Strangers who have friends
Friends with strangers – Friends who have strangers, a group of friends who have strangers.
What are strangers?
Strangers in Paradise