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What I Didn’t Know About Myself

4 October 2012

Two days ago I was given a reality check. I’m making the assumption that most people can relate to me when I say that I like to think of myself as a pretty open person who doesn’t make judgements about people before they meet them. However, it turns out I was wrong about myself.

I learned that I have preconceptions about what people are like that affect how I go about interacting (or not interacting) with them. There was a business woman who was a guest in one of our cafés, and I had a favour to ask her that I could have asked via email or in person. I had not met her personally, but the manager of that café had. She was sitting in the café at the time, so the simplest and most personalised way would have been to approach her in the café and have a chat about what I wanted. Instead, I asked the café manager to get her email address so I could email the request to her.

Turns out from her reply to my email that she is a lovely person who is eager to help out, yet I assumed she would be a brisk business woman who would either seem abrupt and uninterested like I was wasting her time, or ask me questions I wouldn’t know the answers to and make me feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.

 This experience has got me thinking that I’ve got to get over that fear of approaching people I assume (usually erroneously) won’t want to be disturbed. I’ve got to get involved, start talking to people, asking questions, striking up conversations. It’s how to learn about people, which I love doing, and it’s also how to network.

Shortly after this experience, my boss inadvertently gave me a perfect example of an alternate way to treat people. A woman was in the café sitting near us listening to a young trio of jazz musicians play in the dining room, and after they finished playing she came up to us to thank us for offering free live music to the guests, and she continued to gush to us the story of her client, who has cerebral palsy and rarely gets the chance to hear live music without having to pay to go to a large concert in a setting not nearly as comfortable as a café. My boss seized the conversation and they chatted for a few minutes longer before she left with her client, having nearly teared up several times with gratitude during the conversation.

He does this all the time, and as much as we sometimes joke about his eagerness to strike up a conversation with a stranger, I think it’s admirable that he is so genuinely interested in people that he is willing to spark a conversation with anyone he likes.

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