Not a new idea. Ask anyone who’s been through sales training. But what if you’re not selling? Like the other day when I had a conversation with someone who only talks to me if it’s absolutely necessary or if he wants to vent about something annoying. Since his abruptness precedes him, he doesn’t bond with many people, which seems to be just fine with him. But I pushed ahead anyway.
Knowing he was from another part of the country, I asked how he ended up here. What followed was a surprisingly precise account of the path that led him across the US to find his wife and his life. He explained each fork in the road, and why he chose the path he did. It reminded me of my own convoluted journey to the present; and at the end of the story there was a kind of kinship between us.
We judge people very quickly when we don’t know them, often based on 2 dimensions instead of 3. Here’s a person who shared similar experiences to my own, but who I wrote off as a “grumpy old man.”
Is it ageism? No. Imagine writing off Ringo Starr because he’s 78. He just started a new All-Star Band and is on tour. So are the Rolling Stones who are 75, 75, 77 and 82. At age 92, Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but the rest of him is performing live all over the country this year.
Is it lack of compassion? No. Just last year I reconnected with a distant relative. As she shared a childhood I could not have imagined, a door opened between us that had been locked for years. If only I had known.
It’s been a lack of effort on my part. We all have stories worth sharing. They connect us. I will not forget this lesson, and am looking forward to asking more questions, listening harder for the story, and watching more doors open.