I love the holidays. But maybe not for the same reason employees like them. When you work for yourself it’s harder to shut off the entrepreneur brain. I like the fact that everything in life is a chance to learn something new. And when I learn a new skill I’m compelled to either figure out a way to make money with it, or pass the new knowledge on to others, or both. It’s just in my DNA.
I like the fact that there’s no traffic on holidays, and things are quiet. Since no one’s in their office I can’t make any phone calls or be distracted by other stuff. I can putter around the office and get creative. I can write all day long without the phone ringing, and catch up on files that have been sitting on my desk for months.
But I did take some time off today and head to a BBQ where I really didn’t know a lot of people. Since I always have the curious brain turned on, I thought this would be a good time to test out some networking skills and see what happens. I decided to hone my listening skills, which is something most people need to improve on, myself included. Since I wasn’t there to impress anyone or plug a project or get a job, I simply asked questions and listened. I would seriously recommend doing this. By forcing yourself to focus on it you’ll realize how much you really do need to improve and how much you can learn if you take the time to listen to others.
If you’re wondering where to start first, find the most interesting looking person in the room. This might be someone with a unique outfit or something that makes them stand out from the crowd. This instantly gives you a conversation starter and an easy way for you to ask questions. BTW, if you make yourself stand out in a crowd, other interesting people will gravitate towards you.
I was standing near the bar because, well, I am still pretty shy and find it difficult to just walk up and start talking to people. But if you stand near the bar, it’s usually a good way to approach people because they are alone and waiting for a drink. A chick walked up with a crazy purple, rhinestone studded hat and seemed open to conversation. Of course I asked where she got the hat and she went on to tell me about it being a gift from a friend. Since I was training myself to be a better listener, I just asked questions. It wasn’t until about 5 minutes later that she also mentioned she was deaf. I had no idea!
She told me how she had trained her dog to be her hearing ear dog and all of the amazing things he could do to help her around the house. She also told me some deaf trivia facts like statistics that show deaf people actually live longer and have safer driving records than hearing people. (being hard of hearing myself, I was glad to hear that) I also didn’t know that Thomas Edison and the founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Lowe were both deaf. These are all things I never would have learned if I hadn’t been focused on just being a good listener.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be a good sales person. And the most important part of selling is being able to listen to what your customers really want. So, the next time you are in a social situation, force yourself to really, really listen to others without interrupting or thinking about what you’re going to say next. Take it all in. You will probably learn a lot of fascinating things that you didn’t know.