We are all strange(rs) until we meet.
One of the challenges I left a coaching client with recently, resulted in him making a commitment to instigating dialogue, with 5 random strangers. Offering up conversation beyond the surface. Deeper than just what the weather was up to today.
Scary? A big deal? It can be for sure. Talking with strangers without a safe, obvious, mutual reason, can lay you out bare. It can leave you open to any sort of response from them such as ‘Sorry, do I know you?’, ‘Can’t talk, I need to be somewhere’. It can even open up the possibility of being blanked and ignored, surely the ultimate cringeworthy experience?
This is a learning edge. Opening up, being vulnerable and daring to be that individual initiating the dialogue. Something so simple, supposedly so natural, can trigger so many fears.
Is it all in the geography?
I was inspired on a recent visit to Massachusetts. The societal understanding is that it’s normal, easy, acceptable to initiate conversation with strangers. For me, it was awkward, odd.
Why is this person who I don’t know, staring at me as if we have history? Do I look alien? Obviously foreign? What does he want? I noticed I was projecting all sorts of fear-based assumptions into the space.
I sat with the physical chemistry responses that were firing off inside of me, without getting caught in needing to react, needing to change this situation. This allowed my internal threat level to settle down to it’s base line. What question’s surfaced? What was my brain trying to convince me of in this scenario?
Is this person a threat to me? Will they try and attack me…physically? Mentally? Do they mean to take advantage of me?
Old stories, back to haunt us.
A conscious leader notices the adrenaline and the tightening in the stomach, they sense the old stories surface for comparison, those that demand attention and they stay…ride through the discomfort, because nothing stays the same.
They recognises the ‘lizard brain’ and how fast it wants to provoke a primal response - of course in the days of dinosaurs, we had a split second to decide if this beast in front of us meant us harm or not. Survival was key. Staying aware of this very old primal pattern allows the threat to be assessed in reasonable terms. Creatively, not reactively.
The language of the body.
Awareness of the body is critical, feeling where the muscles have involuntarily tightened the stomach most probably and the diaphragm. The protective stance of the chest out, the breath held, poised and ready to run.
Wait…breathe into the ‘hardened’ areas. Channel breath there. Give the responses room and don’t make them wrong. This is old stuff-deeply engrained.
Now, spaciousness and ease begin to surface, the possibility for interaction to happen is available. You are always at choice.
I have been practicing this for a number of months and it’s been liberating. Authentic connection facilitates deep dialogue. What this means is that we don’t need to have the right opening line, or the perfect words to start a conversation with anybody.
When we bring an attitude of non-judgement and a deep curiosity in the human across the way from us, we find that we hold them differently, we begin to see them with possibility and compassion.
Over to you.
I believe some of our deepest fears as human beings are isolation and rejection. So how about you? What do you do to overcome the fear around meeting strangers? I'd love to hear what's worked and, what hasn't. Post in the comments below.
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I coach conscious entrepreneurs around situations such as this and if that would be in service of your bigger picture, get in touch.