Day One Off to a Rocky Start

Couldn’t sleep last night. I was really fired up by this new idea. This new approach to life. I kept imagining this totally different person who likes people and who people like in return. Like the guy who sits next to you on an airplane and by the end of the trip you’re invited to his family reunion.

So at first I was too excited to sleep, thinking about this new me and how much I liked the idea of him.

But then of course my mind shifted to the work involved in getting from here to there. How exactly am I going to pull this off? What am I going to say to all these people? So then I couldn’t sleep because I was getting nervous about the project. What if I fail?

One good thing about not sleeping all night was that I think I narrowed down the types of things to say to strangers–the ice breakers–to (1) compliments; (2) observations; and (3) small talk.

I figured who doesn’t like to hear something nice from a stranger? If someone passed me in the street and said, “Hey, nice shirt!” I’d probably be pretty happy. Or at least smile.

Observations would have to be contextual. Like if I was waiting in line at Subway, I could be like, “Whoa, look at that Jared poster. I wonder if he ever could have imagined that eating some turkey sandwiches would become his life’s career.” I have to try to avoid sounding like Seinfeld here, but I think I could pull it off.

Small talk is I think the backup plan if I can’t think of anything. People actually don’t mind talking about the weather. Too bad it’s always the same in L.A. or else I could be the guy who says, “Hot enough for you?”

Anyway, armed with a plan, or at least a few ideas, I called my friend Paul. (Didn’t mean to give you the impression that I have no friends in my last post. Paul and I went to high school together back east. We weren’t really friends back then, but we hang out sometimes now because, I don’t know, we went to high school together.)

Anyway, I needed to tell someone about the Project and so we met up for lunch at the R&D Cafe on Montana. I got there early but I didn’t have any change for the meter. I asked the hostess if I could get change and she told me to get it from the bartender.

I went over to the bartender who was only a couple feet away. She had already heard that I needed change so she just looked up at me and asked how much I needed.

But in that second that she looked up, I saw these piercing blue eyes. Not the dull slate-blue kind, but the bright, deep blue kind that look like crystals. Or gemstones.

I’m not saying that it was like I was suddenly staring at a supermodel. Or that I was transfixed or dazed. She was pretty but it’s not like she was a model or anything. I’m just saying she had really nice eyes.

So, fueled by my new approach to life, I made an instant executive decision to say something. You know, talk to strangers.

So I just said what I was thinking. I said, “Wow, you have really pretty eyes!”

Her reaction was not what I had hoped for. She just kind of looked away and muttered, “Uh, thanks.” Like I was creeping her out. She gave me the quarters and I left.

On the way back to the parking meter, I started to turn red, getting embarrassed. How had I screwed up on my very first attempt? My mind was racing. Am I actually a creepy guy? I was totally not hitting on her. I wasn’t trying to get her phone number or using some line. It was an honest reaction. An excited utterance. I was just trying to say something nice. How could she have taken it differently?

I got all self conscious. Like I’m not good enough looking to compliment a pretty girl.

I went back in, avoided the bartender, and sat down. When Paul showed up I explained the whole Project and how I totally failed on my very first sentence.

Then he said something that really made sense. His theory was that pretty girls get hit on all the time. People are always complimenting them. Especially hot bartenders whose job it is to constantly talk to guys. So complimenting her on the way she looks was the wrong thing to say.

If I had said, “Wow, you’re really good at juggling,” (in this scenario she’s juggling something) she would have been more receptive (at least according to Paul). In other words, it’s okay to compliment hot girls, but just not on their hotness.

It makes sense. It’s not like the hot girl did anything to be hot. And people like to be complimented on their actions or choices or cleverness, not their genes. I guess that’s why basketball players get annoyed if you say, “Wow, you’re really tall.”

So the lesson for today is: complimenting people is still a good and valid approach to talking to strangers. Even hot girls. But I have to be smarter and quicker or at least more observant to figure out what it is about this person that they actually had something to do with that’s worth complimenting.

Seems like a lot of work but I still think I’m up for the challenge.

P.S. Paul thinks the Project is a great idea.

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9 Responses to Day One Off to a Rocky Start

  1. Jessica says:

    That is great advice regarding the compliment.

  2. Richard says:

    I’m 2 years late but loving the blog so far. You should definitely make it into a book.

  3. Luke says:

    Just found the blog, and I’m starting on the same ‘project’.

  4. Bloggins says:

    People Person, Day 1… Learnt a principle of ‘Game’.

    I’m looking forward to reading through this site since I also tentatively started recently. Hard work being an reclusive introvert.

    • Bloggins says:

      One month on, I’ve started making a few random comments to strangers – usually a funny observation such as ‘The dog’s taking you for a walk’. I’m asking people I interact with things like ‘How’s your day going?’. I can confirm it feels good! The other person feels engaged as well (they feel like a person and not just some drone working in a shop, for example). If the person is sociable, they’ll follow up the question with some conversation.

      It would seem that an introvert can have an extroverted aspect to their personality with bit-by-bit efforts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

  5. Hailey says:

    Hi there,
    I’m working on a very similar blog and project for a class. I just wanted to say that what I’ve read so far of your blog has been super helpful! Particularly the ice breakers. I hope you don’t mind if I reference your blog on mine from time to time 🙂

  6. Pingback: #2: Observations – Stranger Stories

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