“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” – A.A. Milne
Let’s go with the forest metaphor. When you’re attempting to reach out to someone without any previous knowledge or any idea what their likes or dislikes are, you’re going into a new territory of the forest.
You need a certain type of bravery to continue on the path, even when you have relatively few clues (clothing, other external items, environment) as to how someone will react when you attempt to go to them and actually try to interact.
Here’s my personal example:
September 1st, 2011. 10:37AM in the train tunnel that connects Oakland to San Francisco.
A woman that sat next to me was playing solitaire on her phone. I had no idea what her age was and no idea what her plans were.
I decided to write on my iPhone, “Let’s talk instead of having you play a boring game of solitaire.” She had earphones on, so I figured this was a compromise between my fear of actually doing it and having her to actually take the damn things off.
I tapped her on the shoulder and made her read the message.
Here’s the awkward part: She didn’t understand what was going on.
At this point, she took her earphone off and looked dazed and confused.
Then I had to explain to her that it was a light joke and I wanted to talk to her about anything really.
I ended up half-joking that, “Well I saw that you were playing solitaire there so maybe we could have a conversation that’s more interesting than that.”
She said, “Sorry.” and turned away. Then she continued playing solitaire.
I thought the iPhone message was funny and creative. It turns out I was wrong but I would’ve never known until I tried.
I was satisfied that I tried.
The paradox of reaching out to people is that only those who are open enough to receive it will be willing to talk to you.
Some people are too shy themselves, others get nervous if you’re not perfect (and show nerves to actually try), even more think you’re a flat out creeper, and the rest don’t connect with that certain depth. Also, there’s probably a million other reasons.
I’m welcoming them and giving them the chance to interact.
The rest is out of my control and outside the circle of influence.