I have never been a naturally outgoing person. I don’t thrive in group settings and when meeting new people, I’m often perceived as standoffish. My son on the other hand holds all the characteristics that I admire in those that are outgoing. He excels at engaging with new people and seems to blossom in group situations. For the past three years, I have had a front row seat for a master’s class from an expert extrovert and here are the key lessons I have learned so far.
Keep it Personal
I am always shocked when my toddler walks up to someone he has met once or twice and is able to recall something special about them. Each and every time he does this I watch as the other person’s face softens and lights up because they were remembered and feel special.
Sharing is Caring
Much like remembering something personal about someone makes them feel special, sharing something personal will do the same. In my son’s case I often feel he shares information no one cares about or understands. For example, after going to Disneyland he shared with each person he encountered, “Donald Duck tickled me.” I always felt compelled to provide context, but it usually wasn’t necessary. The other person would quickly delve into a conversation all about the excitement of visiting Disney.
Just Keep Trying
Some people (myself included) are harder to engage than others, but if you smile and keep the conversation moving eventually even the difficult to engage will find their way into the flow. For my son, this often means that he is engaging in a one-sided conversation where he is sharing information that the other person does not appear to care about. Then he will hit them with just the right question or share a story that hits home for them and the conversation has now become a two-way street.
It’s a Numbers Game
Each time my son engages with a new person I hold my breath waiting to see how the other person will respond. It breaks my heart for him when he is ignored, but this is how he learns that it is truly a numbers game. Let’s be honest, not everyone is going to want to talk to you, but if you talk to almost everyone the odds are in your favor that you will meet quite a few that will either become your friends or at minimum good acquaintances.
The most important lesson that I have learned from my son thus far is to be genuine. My son has no ulterior motive when he starts up a conversation. His excitement about the interaction is not something he is faking to win the other person over. He will not use the personal information he remembers to help him get ahead in the future. We all know when a conversation is being forced or when someone is talking with us with an underlying motive. For those of that do not easily engage with new people we can sense when a person is authentically kind and friendly and I believe this is why my son is able to so easily make friends.
I am sure that there are many more lessons to learn and that I have missed a few that he has already taught me. I am thankful that son has the natural ability to make friends so easily. Every day I find that my comfort zone is a little broader and I know that it is because I am following my son’s lead and learning from a natural.
Do you have an outgoing child or is yours more reserved like mine? How has your child’s personality influenced yours?