Conversations with Strangers

By Uche Amunike

Today, I bring you two beautiful articles written by my big sister, Barr Iruka Ndubuizu. They are interesting, inspiring and motivational. I hope you enjoy them. Please read.

If your life is anything like mine, your parents constantly warned you against talking to strangers when you were growing up. From the moment you could talk or walk, you were taught that talking to strangers is a terrible thing to do; you could be abused, kidnapped or killed. As with most teachings we grow up with, we tend to pass it on to our children, and the circle continues.

Barr Iruka Ndubuizu

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if we only interacted with people we know? Luckily for me, most of my interactions with strangers have been positive. It has given me the opportunity to pick the brains of some very intelligent people thereby enlarging my world view and elevating my thought process. I have learned about books, cultures, principles, entrepreneurship, career, finances, human nature, health, love, wealth, friendship, etc. I find people very interesting and my curiosity always got the better of me. I like to think I was a very obedient child. This, however, was one rule I had the hardest time with. As far back as I can remember, I have always had an inquisitive mind. As a child, I was comfortable talking to both children my age as well as adults.

Think of all the fun and opportunities you miss out on when you strike up conversations with only those you know! Understandably, some people are shy or just don’t know how to go about initiating a conversation with a stranger. The best way to overcome this is to simply switch your mindset. Albert Schweitzer, the German theologian tells us that “we cannot possibly let ourselves get frozen into regarding everyone we do not know as an absolute stranger”. Relax. Seeing them as “friends you haven’t met” makes all the difference. The more you do it, the greater your confidence and the easier it becomes.

My latest adventure as an entrepreneur was because of a casual conversation I had with the stranger sitting next to me in an airplane. We talked about careers and long term goals. He advised me to consider becoming a consultant. I had never dreamed of owning a business so I was unsure how to go about it. He graciously shared simple tips for success, told me to try them and to give the business a year. By the time the plane landed an hour later, I had filled my notepad with a skeletal business plan, a business name and a strong determination to try it out. I did not know that this stranger had built and ran multiple successful businesses. It’s been two years since the birth of my company. I haven’t seen him since then but I will never write the story of Eureka Consulting without mentioning that conversation.

Chatting with strangers can expand your breadth of knowledge. Think of them as people who could teach you something, or challenge you to view the world (or yourself) differently. The world and your environment is a classroom. Stay alert and learn. Speak. Listen. Be sincere. Have no agenda. Show interest and you will be amazed at the lessons out there. Remember, it is a conversation. Don’t do all the talking. Ask questions but be careful not to turn it into an interrogation. Come from a place of genuine interest and you will be amazed at how quickly you can build rapport. There is something inherently freeing about connecting with someone you don’t know and may never see again. There’s no judgment so you find yourself sharing things you would not ordinarily share.

Not every interaction with a stranger will be a positive experience. Some people are rude or they just don’t want to be bothered, and that’s okay. Don’t be deterred. Be willing to risk rejection. If rejected, don’t take it personally; overcome it and move on to the next conversation. There is power in knowing that you can talk to pretty much anybody you want to.

So, the next time you are at a business or social setting, or even the airport, go for it! Just smile, say hello and extend your hand. What do you have to lose? I look forward to shaking your hand soon soon. Like Walt Whitman says, “Stranger, if you … meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?  Here’s wishing you many enlightening and inspirational conversations with strangers! Great opportunities await you.

Dancing in the Rain

There are a slew of quotes and often used phrases we tend to spout when someone is going through a rough patch. I’m sure you’ve heard some of these clichés before –

“Consider the glass half full, not half empty” (are you kidding me?)

“This too shall pass” (when?)

“The power of positive thinking” (not helping)

“Everything happens for a reason” (It doesn’t make sense)

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (seriously?)

“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade” (I don’t like lemonade)

“God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle” (He just did!)

“It wasn’t meant to be” (says who?)

“Count your blessings” (so, grateful people are not allowed to have a bad day?)

The list goes on and on. Depending on one’s mental state at the moment, some of these quotes may get the “motivator” an eye roll, a burst of “you don’t understand”, a variation of my responses above or a quick end to the conversation. I must confess, I have used these clichés in my attempt to encourage or support someone. I should know better. Even with the best intentions, these sayings may have the effect of minimizing what one is going through. Think of whatever you are going through as a wound. If it is a small cut that just needs a Band-Aid, a powerful positive quote may do the trick. If it is a deep wound that needs stitches, you definitely need more than a Band-Aid.

I have had quite a challenging year and no amount of positive quotes my friends shared with me helped.  My wound was deep. It needed sutures and time to heal. My challenges were not something that could be glossed over with a well worded quote. I had to feel the pain of it all – loss, negativity, fear, frustration, anger, impatience, doubt, etc. The wound had to heal well enough for the salve to be effective.

Thankfully, I am a naturally positive person so a big part of me always believes that I will get through whatever is going on, eventually. I also believe that “in the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity” as Albert Einstein once stated. This has been a guiding principle in my life. So rather than wish I could wave a magic wand to make it all go away, I maintain my sanity by deciding what to do while the wound heals. I search for the opportunity. Depending on how deep the wound is, this could take a while. It’s usually difficult, but I try to focus on other things. My first instinct is to shut down, retreat, or have a “pity party”. These reactions only make the wait even longer. So, I stop waiting. I get busy doing the things I love doing. The problem is still there, but I refuse to focus on it. I am not in denial. I understand I still need to deal with it; I just need a distraction.

In Violet Greene’s words, “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass … It’s about learning to dance in the rain”. So I dance. I live. I engage. I connect. I move forward. As often as I can. As quickly as I can. As patiently as I can. At some point during my dance in the rain, the wound begins to heal to the point where only a Band-Aid is required. It all begins to make sense. They are not merely clichés anymore but a guide and a process to navigate through life. They become road maps and a part of life’s journey. It is passing and the reason it happened is clearer now. It didn’t kill me. I feel stronger and I’m beginning to like lemonade. I handled it well, just like God knew I would. I’m counting my blessings.

As usual, it all boils down to choice. I choose active waiting. I’m impatient, so this is hard for me. But I do it. It is indeed an opportunity to re-ignite. I’m almost grateful for the problem.

What will you do while you wait for the wound to heal? Will you choose to “dance” or hold your breath until the storm blows over? Remember, “life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” – Jawaharlal Nehru.

Choose wisely.

Beautiful write-ups by a beautiful woman.  She is a negotiator and contract expert, strategist, consultant and trainer. She is the Executive Director of Eureka Consulting LLC, with offices in Atlanta Georgia and Lagos.

Daalu nu!

 

There are a slew of quotes and often used phrases we tend to spout when someone is going through a rough patch. I’m sure you’ve heard some of these clichés before –

“Consider the glass half full, not half empty” (are you kidding me?)

“This too shall pass” (when?)

“The power of positive thinking” (not helping)

“Everything happens for a reason” (It doesn’t make sense)

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (seriously?)

“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade” (I don’t like lemonade)

“God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle” (He just did!)

“It wasn’t meant to be” (says who?)

“Count your blessings” (so, grateful people are not allowed to have a bad day?)

The list goes on and on. Depending on one’s mental state at the moment, some of these quotes may get the “motivator” an eye roll, a burst of “you don’t understand”, a variation of my responses above or a quick end to the conversation. I must confess, I have used these clichés in my attempt to encourage or support someone. I should know better. Even with the best intentions, these sayings may have the effect of minimizing what one is going through. Think of whatever you are going through as a wound. If it is a small cut that just needs a Band-Aid, a powerful positive quote may do the trick. If it is a deep wound that needs stitches, you definitely need more than a Band-Aid.

I have had quite a challenging year and no amount of positive quotes my friends shared with me helped.  My wound was deep. It needed sutures and time to heal. My challenges were not something that could be glossed over with a well worded quote. I had to feel the pain of it all – loss, negativity, fear, frustration, anger, impatience, doubt, etc. The wound had to heal well enough for the salve to be effective.

Thankfully, I am a naturally positive person so a big part of me always believes that I will get through whatever is going on, eventually. I also believe that “in the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity” as Albert Einstein once stated. This has been a guiding principle in my life. So rather than wish I could wave a magic wand to make it all go away, I maintain my sanity by deciding what to do while the wound heals. I search for the opportunity. Depending on how deep the wound is, this could take a while. It’s usually difficult, but I try to focus on other things. My first instinct is to shut down, retreat, or have a “pity party”. These reactions only make the wait even longer. So, I stop waiting. I get busy doing the things I love doing. The problem is still there, but I refuse to focus on it. I am not in denial. I understand I still need to deal with it; I just need a distraction.

In Violet Greene’s words, “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass … It’s about learning to dance in the rain”. So I dance. I live. I engage. I connect. I move forward. As often as I can. As quickly as I can. As patiently as I can. At some point during my dance in the rain, the wound begins to heal to the point where only a Band-Aid is required. It all begins to make sense. They are not merely clichés anymore but a guide and a process to navigate through life. They become road maps and a part of life’s journey. It is passing and the reason it happened is clearer now. It didn’t kill me. I feel stronger and I’m beginning to like lemonade. I handled it well, just like God knew I would. I’m counting my blessings.

As usual, it all boils down to choice. I choose active waiting. I’m impatient, so this is hard for me. But I do it. It is indeed an opportunity to re-ignite. I’m almost grateful for the problem.

What will you do while you wait for the wound to heal? Will you choose to “dance” or hold your breath until the storm blows over? Remember, “life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” – Jawaharlal Nehru.

Choose wisely.

Beautiful write-ups by a beautiful woman.  She is a negotiator and contract expert, strategist, consultant and trainer. She is the Executive Director of Eureka Consulting LLC, with offices in Atlanta Georgia and Lagos.

Daalu nu!

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