Making Friends Wherever You Go

Robert Terson

One of the things that saddens me is how the majority of people obliviously go about their daily lives. They’re in such a rush to check off all the items on their to-do list, get everything accomplished they think they need to, that they’re missing out on so many wonderful possibilities. I’ll explain.

For decades now (yes, I did this even when I was working, even though I traveled on business and was away Sunday through Wednesday 35 to 40 weeks a year and every moment at home was precious), I’ve made it a policy to pay attention to the people I encounter, as I go about my daily life. When I would go out to do my errands, for example—bank, post office, dry cleaners, etc.—I’d take the time to engage the people who were serving me. I wanted to know them by name; I asked about their families—wives, husbands, children, and grandchildren; I asked questions about their work, businesses; I wanted to know what was going on in their lives that was important to them. I took the kind of interest in them that probably surprised most of them—at least at first, anyway. I didn’t (don’t) do it for them; I did (do) it for me.

As I engage these people, they open up and enthusiastically talk about themselves, about their families, work, hobbies, and too many other things to try to list. They become friends. Now when I go out to do my errands, I’m not just doing errands, I’m going out to see my friends. Can you take a guess how much more fun that is than rushing about obliviously?

And here’s the real kicker: all these wonderful relationships I’ve established benefit me in so many ways. Beyond the pleasure I get from just knowing these people, interacting with them, I’ll tell you flat out that they’ll do things for me that they never would even consider doing for Joe Blow.

A number of years ago I was selling a car to a man (I always sell our cars privately), who, along with his wife, drove 50 miles to pick up the car. I wasn’t going to give them delivery of the vehicle until the wire transfer had gone though, but when we went over to the bank to see if it had gone though, we found the bank had closed up for the day; Jan, one of the tellers, had just locked the door. The man was beside himself. I didn’t blame him, nor did I want him to have to make the long drive a second time. Speaking through the glass door, I explained the situation to Jan. She opened the door without a second’s hesitation, let the three of us in and escorted us to a desk where she placed a call to see if the wire transfer had gone through. It had. We went back to the house, I signed over the title and the deal was consummated; they took delivery of the car and everyone was happy.

Think Jan would have reopened the bank for just anyone? If you do, I strongly suggest you rethink that one. She did it because—I hope this doesn’t come across as pompous—it was me; because she had a relationship with me; because she knew me so well. I was the guy she had discussed her husband’s kidney-cancer experience with, who asked how he was doing every time I saw her (those discussions were especially poignant to me because of my own kidney-cancer experience a few months earlier).

Am I making my point? If you’ll take the time to engage the people you encounter in everyday life, you’ll enrich both your lives. You’ll establish relationships that will provide untold benefits to you. You’ll make this a better world and have a lot of fun, to boot. It just takes some time and making the other guy the focus, just like you should be doing with your prospects/customers. Right?

What do you think? Can you do that? Are you smart enough to do that?