This post is by Marcella Chamorro.
During my recent TEDx talk, I told one of my favorite stories: how I recently had dinner with my very favorite author.
It was one of the most fun parts of my time on stage. As I told the audience my story, I laughed at how ridiculous I sounded.
Here’s how it happened:
In March when I first met my favorite author, Julien Smith, I was a nervous wreck and very possibly blushing bright red. Nonetheless, I gathered my strength, walked right up to him, and extended my (shaking) hand. We ended up having an awesome conversation, and I walked off confident and happy.
Months later, we exchanged emails and planned to have dinner in my hometown. It was a relaxing time, but I never imagined that my husband would bond with him, that his girlfriend would become a new friend, and I’d end up driving them home in the pouring rain.
As I told the story onstage at TEDxManagua, I told the audience how I sat in the car ride home, remembering how nervous I had been when I met him. I asked myself: “Is this real life?!”
I recently read something that made complete sense of my encounter. In Dr. Brene Brown’s new book Daring Greatly (which I recommend fervently), I read a line that floored me. She writes:
“Courage is contagious.”
A simple concept, but it packs a strong punch.
I could have cowered away and never made a friendly approach. Blushing as I was, it proved to be well worth it. When I eventually sat down to dinner with him, his girlfriend, and my husband, I ended up learning that much more about courageousness.
Connecting With Peers + An Action Plan
1. Contribute Value — Mutually
I realize that most people who talk about finding mentors or connecting with influential people always mention creating value for the “target person”, but I find that it’s incredibly useful to simply pinpoint what kind of value you need, too.
Letting someone help out (and telling them exactly how to do that) can result in a longer lasting relationship. For example, if I share what I’m up to, and ask for some feedback, I’m much more likely to get the help I am seeking. I am also now one step closer to offering my help in any future projects that come up.
2. Be Vulnerable and Courageous
As Dr. Brene Brown shares in her book, being vulnerable doesn’t equal being weak. Being honest and open is a great way to create a connection more quickly than being formal and reserved. If I hadn’t been blushing and borderline stuttering when I first walked up to introduce myself, I doubt I would have made such an honest connection.
Sure, I looked kind of silly, but if that’s my true self, why hide it? It worked, didn’t it?
3. Follow-Up With Caring & Friendliness
What works best for me is avoiding any kind of transactional thinking. I don’t approach peers and influential people with the thought of what I can gain from the relationship.
Instead, I approach it from a place of learning and inspiration. Most of the instances where I reach out to people who inspire me (and they are usually super intimidating), I try to follow up with friendly conversation. That means only business talk if it’s incredibly relevant — because business talk isn’t as fun and won’t lead to as close a connection.
Following up doesn’t come easy because it’s not necessarily natural. I don’t follow up with friends after a coffee or lunch date, but friends aren’t exactly the same, are they? I think about it as staying in the loop, not truly following up as you would on a job interview.
No matter what anyone says, I believe it’s not easy to be yourself. It takes courage and vulnerability (Dr. Brene Brown’s specialty) to create long-lasting, true connection with a person. No matter how famous, how learned, or how prestigious the person is.
It wasn’t easy to walk up to a New York Times best-selling author and introduce myself, but it worked.
It wasn’t easy to stand on the TEDxManagua stage and talk about my embarrassing moments, but it worked.
Next time you want to meet amazing people, be yourself. It’ll work — trust me.