I’ve embarked on a unique project, quite unexpectedly and definitely by circumstance. I’m finding that people will share with me, in 20 minutes or less, their joys, their sorrows, or their dreams. I often post pictures of them on Facebook and provide a snippet of our conversation.
People have commented how they love seeing these posts and have asked: How do you meet so many interesting people? How do you start conversations? How do you get people to share their lives with you?
I recently had reconstructive surgery on my foot and ankle, that was way more extensive than I anticipated. My only explanation for why I didn’t understand the extent of the repair is because I didn’t ask my surgeon:
a) the right questions,
b) I didn’t understand the answers or
c) I didn’t like the answers
I think the correct answer was “c” – I didn’t like the answer. Regardless, I had a cast, with no weight bearing capacity for 17 days. Then a massive boot and crutches for 2 more weeks, then a boot with one crutch for another week and now the boot with a cane. (Which feels like pure freedom.)
After weeks of relative confinement, I can now go to the beach, my place of bliss, not to walk my 5000-10,000 steps, but to take in the joy of just being present to the energy of the ocean.
A friend recently commented that he thought this recuperation time was a “sign for me to slow down.” We often ignore or don’t like the messages or signs we receive – whether it’s from our doctors or friends. But we get to choose how we want to respond when challenges like this arise. Hence, “my project.”
As I Sit
The beach is part of my therapy and the ocean fills my soul. I will sit on a bench on a boardwalk that overlooks the beach where there are old people, young people, surfers, families, and homeless people … most of whom I never noticed before, when I intently walked the shores.
Now, as I sit, I watch people, birds, dogs and of course, the waves. I listen to the ocean, conversations and laughter of people in the distance, and smell the smells of low tide or the smoke from a contained beach fire or cook out. My heart is still and open. Inevitably, I engage with someone – or they initiate a conversation with me.
This would not have happened when I was on my mission to attain my 5,000 or 10,000 steps as I walked the shores. And I will admit that the massive boot does attract a certain amount of attention and can be a conversation starter.
However when you sit, with no agenda, unusual things can happen. People show up – who can make a difference in your life or you get to show up in ways that empower and contribute to others.
Being open means being willing to be the contributor or the one who’s being contributed to.
There’s no agenda when you’re relaxed and open to possibilities. Sometimes it starts with a smile or a wave to say hello.
There have been days when I sit on my bench and think … “well, I guess I won’t meet anyone today.” And then a miracle occurs.
It’s All About The Vibes
Those of you who have heard me speak have heard me say that people respond to your vibrational energy. I am really clear that as I sit so peacefully on the bench, I am attracting the people who contribute to me and the people for whom I can make a difference. And the miracle is that I don’t know which way it will go – me making a difference for them or them making a difference for me. Ironically, I find that many times it’s both… a mutual gift from the heart.
Alfredo told me how hard it is to care for a 92-year-old mother in law with dementia and then invited me to have cookies with his grandchildren. (He also loves a good, dry Cabernet, especially from Argentina.)
Or Tami, a mother of 5 children who wanted to be able to roller-skate with her youngest child. With tears in her eyes, she also confided that she struggles to find work especially since her ex-husband took the car away from her. (While I didn’t hear the facts behind the situation, I wondered what kind of man takes a car away from a mother of 5.)
Or to witness Billy and his excitement of teaching his 16-month-old son how to surf.
And then there’s defiant Buddy, the shelter dog. Part dachshund, part lab, Corgi legs and who knows what else with a tail like that!
Rules of Engagement
So, what are the “rules of engagement?” How do you get people to engage, authentically?
- Relax and be curious.
- Honor people’s courage in being open with you.
- Listen from your heart. Trust that people want to and will engage when you listen.
- Repeat steps 1 ,2 and 3
- Enjoy the gift of true engagement, even if it’s for a moment in time.
Marty Stanley, CSP, is an author, national speaker and consultant on personal and organizational change. She is a “cultural revolutionary” who has transformed organizations through employee engagement and collaboration. If you want to learn more about how to create a culture of engagement and accountability and “how to herd cats” in your organization, watch this short video.