7 ways to be more extroverted
By Michael Goldberg
Knock Out Networking
Don’t save your small talk for the elevator.
Colin Cowherd is currently the host of "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" on ESPN radio. Yes, ESPN, so he covers sports. But often enough, he’ll rant about entertainment, politics, unions and even religion. Earlier this week at the beginning of his show, he spoke about the benefits of being an extrovert.
Cowherd mentioned that he probably wouldn't have the job he has if he didn't have the natural inclination to talk to the people around him — cab drivers, people in the elevator, those he met at airports or in sports stadiums. He rattled off statistics about how many more people succeed in their lives simply because they’re extroverted. If you have the ability and confidence to talk to people serendipitously, good things happen. I think he’s right. Think of all the times you were just going about your business and you could have struck up a conversation with someone influential (or anyone really) where there was a chance to create an opportunity.
Of course, if you never strike up that conversation, there’s absolutely no (as in zero) chance for that opportunity — an opportunity to land a job, earn some business, refer business, give some advice, get some advice, learn something, have fun, or just to help a brother out.
Here are seven opportunities to become more extroverted as you go about your day to day activities.
1. At the supermarket
Or at the bank, dry cleaners, deli, Starbucks, barber, dentist, auto service center or wherever life happens to take you as you run your daily or weekly errands. As you’re standing in line or sitting in the waiting room, instead of texting, tweeting or playing Angry Birds, look for someone nearby that has “smiley eyes” (a term I learned from a media coach) and say hello. Strike up a conversation. Ask a few questions about them, comment about what they’re reading and ask what they’re having done to their car or whatever. If the conversation feels right, it will continue; if not, simply go back to doing what you’re doing.
2. On an airplane
Since I do a lot of business travel, I’m on airplanes all the time. Typically, there’s a fellow business traveler seated next to me, and I can’t help but say hello. Travel is a lonely business, so it’s not such a stretch to greet someone sitting only six inches away from me. Besides, we’ll be six inches apart for 2,000 miles and 35,000 feet, so why not introduce myself? Nobody has ever changed seats to escape me (that I know of). And I’m sensitive to keep the talk light, appropriate to the tone, and to allow for the solitude that a good book or a nap might bring.
3. In the airport
I've watched more playoff baseball games in airports than anywhere else. It seems whenever my flights have been delayed, it’s game number two of the American League Division Series. That means a crowded bar at the airport with a lot of frustrated travelers all too happy to talk baseball. Of course, other questions I might ask include: How long is your flight delayed? Where are you headed? Do you travel often? What type of work do you do? Who do you work for? Then I just go from there. 4. At the kid’s game
In my case, it’s the kid’s cheerleading events, competitions or cheering at the football game. But the same applies whether your kid plays football, soccer, baseball or whatever. If you happen to be one of the coaches, then you have an opportunity to get to know the other volunteer coaches. If you’re a parent that stays on the sideline or in the stands with your hot chocolate, introduce yourself to the people you probably see every week. You could say something like, "You know I see you here every week. I’m Michael. Which child is yours? Nice to meet you. What type of work do you do when you’re not spending five hours at cheerleading?" And so on.
5. Your extracurricular activities
I spend time meeting and getting to know people while boxing at my gym and playing in my softball league. I think fantasy football leagues qualify. Some of the players in my softball league are accountants, financial advisors, attorneys, sales reps, business owners, mortgage brokers, realtors and various other occupations. In fact, one of my boxing partners is an international equity trader.
Over the years, I've become a client to those I got to know through my softball league. And I've helped enough of the players with their resumes and job searches. My leagues and activities have led to many friendships and a great community.
6. With your clients, referral sources and advocates
Why not look to create more opportunities to spend time with those you do business with? Make it a point to set one day a month on the calendar to grab lunch, dinner, a drink, a ball game, jazz or whatever your thing is with a client, referral source, advocate, or even a true prospect. Every quarter, I have lunch with one of my favorite clients. It’s a standing date that involves sushi, conversations about our favorite television shows (we have a lot in common here), and other events in our lives. It’s a lot of fun. Not by design, we talk about business for about five minutes.
7. When the spirit moves you
There might be other times that you’re going along your merry way and you have the opportunity to start a dialogue, weigh in on someone's conversation or offer to help somebody out. Remember, if you don’t ask the question, the answer is always no. So always ask the question and be on the lookout for opportunities that may fall in your lap.
Please keep in mind that you don’t have to be a small talker, have the gift of gab or be an extrovert to talk to strangers. (By the way, Cowherd mentions mom’s advice about not talking to strangers is great advice until you turn about 15.) And you don’t have to be an extrovert to be more extroverted. Like with anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Start practicing now. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Don’t save your small talk for the elevator.