Match Game. The Ford Mustang. Senator Sam Ervin and Watergate. Or as I like to call it, “do you remember?” It’s a game I find myself playing whenever I meet someone around my age. I like reminiscing about a past that feels kinder and gentler, though unless you were a straight, white, affluent, Christian male, it really wasn’t.
I recently played the game with a gentleman I met on a flight home. Logging as many hours as I do in the air, I’m sensitive to people who have no desire to converse, and who would simply like to pass the time under the cover of noise cancelling headphones. I often feel that way myself.
But he seemed amenable to a conversation. So we dove in, and at the end of the flight, we exchanged contact information. We’re meeting next week to discuss a project that he is bidding out, and I’ll walk into the office with the advantage of having a degree of familiarity with him, and being able to reference his wife and kids by name. Better still, he seems like a really good guy.
What makes this all the sweeter, is that I truly like people, and I like meeting people for the first time and hearing their stories. I don’t necessarily mean what they do for work, but what they enjoy doing when not at work, where they like to travel, how proud they are of their kids, the most exciting things they’ve done, and what little known books or movies or wine bars or taprooms they would recommend. Things like that.
I remember a mentor saying to me, that all things being equal, people want to do business with those whom they like. It made sense. Absent a trust fund or winning the lotto, we all need to do something to pay the bills, and who wouldn’t rather work with nice people?
Work often does come up in these mid-air conversations, but it’s usually at the end, as we’re on approach for landing, as it was with the gentleman I spoke of, above. That’s when business cards get exchanged, or one of us calls the other to swap mobile numbers. I’ve also found that compared to other friends who do a lot of flying, I seem to come home with more business cards in general, and that those contacts end up converting into either friendships, or business, or both.
Finally, I find that the less I talk and the more questions that I ask, the more engaged I am. It gives me an opportunity to listen for common ground, e.g. a restaurant that we both know, or a favorite attraction in a city that we both appreciate, or sometimes, on a deeper level, a shared value that we hold dear. I always leave these conversations refreshed, often with contact information, and always a bit richer for having gotten to know a fellow traveler.