Make Friends Everywhere You Go

Here’s a fun little life strategy: Make friends everywhere you go.

Since I’ve been interviewing, setting up the move and calling dozens of people asking all sorts of questions, I’ve started getting in the habit of treating people like people.

It’s very simple. I’ll show you how to get the most out of every person you meet. This is all you need to do:

  1. Smile, make eye contact, shake their hand and get their name. This is SO important! You’d be surprised how few people will bother with this, and how much better service you can get.
  2. Show an interest in them. Find some way to relate to them. Even something as banal as the weather can work. Be a little self-deprecating, or funny. “How are you?” “Fantastic, I’ve almost waken up! Noon’s too early for me. How about you?” Try and find some way to connect with them and wake them up from whatever dry, boring routine they may be stuck in, and lure out the living, breathing, thinking human being inside.
  3. Give them a chance to utilize their experience. Ask your airplane seatmate what they do for a living, and what’s involved in it. Ask the nice lady at the deli counter what her favorite kind of meat is and if you can have a sample. Ask the customer service tech what he could do to save money on what you’re paying. Ask the waiter what his favorite drink is.

Be it a cashier at a supermarket or a voice on the phone, be friendly. Ask for their name, write it down and remember it. While you’re waiting on something, ask them something about themselves. One of my favorite things to do on the phone is to ask someone where they are. Because call centers are so spread out, you could be talking to someone in Phoenix, New York, Washington, Florida, Canada, or, of course, India. You can get peoples’ entire life stories out of them, and it’s often hilarious and interesting.

My favorite experience in that was talking to a Cox cable tech that used to work at a nuclear power plant. He told me all about what it was like to work there, the incredible dangers they faced, all the ridiculous safeguards, and how engineers late at night were able to create perfect synthetic diamonds in the reactor, on the side, just to make extra money. Fascinating stuff. AND he fixed my problem! You can enrich any experience, and calling tech support is a great place to start.

Showing an interest in them can make a huge difference. Once you stop treating people like objects or drones, they can really open up and be incredibly pleasant, and get you favors you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. This week, through simply being friendly, remembering names, showing an interest in people and making a friend, I saved $450 on one of my moving costs.

It’s incredible what people can do if they like you enough to bother, and if you’re bold enough to ask what THEY would do, or what THEY think. Give them a chance to utilize their experience.

See, I believe that, deep down, people really do like interacting other people, and being good at their job. It’s just that most people never give them a chance to do either one of those. When I went to get a new cel phone, I chatted with the salesman for a while, asked him questions about his own personal preferences in a phone or a plan, and we established a little camaraderie of sorts.

But when it came to getting a text message plan that was right for me, I was stuck with a bunch of choices I didn’ tlike. So I asked him if there was anything else he could think of that I could do, and he paused a moment to think it over. He remembered an old, obsolete plan that was barely left over in the system and was only very rarely offered. He found it and gave it to me, and I ended up saving HALF what other people generally pay. And I still enjoy it to this day.

More anecdotes: When I still drank coffee, I’d make friends with the Starbucks baristas and ended up getting free drinks all the time. When I ate out more, I’d eat Quizno’s religiously and get them to give me free extra meat, or custom-make sandwiches for me not on the menu, or give me free food and drinks anytime I wanted.

In fact, just this morning I was in a hurry, shopping for high-top shoes for the motorcycle riding classes I’m taking tomorrow. I was friendly with the salesman and got him to start really THINKING, and putting his expertise to work. He knew which kinds of shoes ran narrow, the conversion rate of shoe sizes between brands, and the best price for what I’m looking for and what stores to check out if I couldn’t find what I wanted there.

He made some strong recommendations to me, and I ended up going with a pair of shoes I’m VERY happy with that he recommended. How many times have you been in a shoe store where you just pointed at the shoe you wanted to try on? Give them a chance to utilize their experience.

Almost every time I get on an airplane, I’ll start a conversation with the person in the seat next to me, and we’ll end up talking for the entire flight. A couple months back I sat next to a cute girl, chatted with her a while, then we grabbed lunch together at the airport and chatted for a couple hours while we were waiting for our planes. I got to kill a couple otherwise boring and empty hours and meet someone new and interesting. 🙂

I even got my own travel agent out of it. I started talking to him, and he told me all sorts of amazing stories about the places he’d traveled all over the world. The incredibly deeply ingrained socialism of Sweden, inadvertently rooming with the US Olympic skiing team in Norway, and personally visiting the highest point of every state in the USA. He even clued me in on the best way to find great deals on travel, the fastest and cheapest way to get a passport, which airlines to avoid, the best times of year to fly, etc, all for free. He also gave me a huge list of sights to see and places to eat in the place I was traveling to. All for showing an interest in him. 🙂

Another example: At my local Target, I’ve made friends with the guys in the Electronics department. Anytime the lines up front are long, I can walk up to one of them and have him check me out at the never-manned cash registers hidden in the back of the Electronics department, and I NEVER, EVER have to wait in line.

Also good to make friends with: Human Resources. They’re the lifeblood of most companies, and the hub of most high-level information flow. Whether you’re inside or outside of a company, the HR rep can be a valuable ally. And I don’t mean this in a manipulative way… not at all. You can simply increase your chances of getting to the top of the pile, or getting advance warning of a layoff, or really any kind of information you might like to know. They tend to be incredibly connected, pleasant people, so it can really only benefit you to be nice to them. ALWAYS befriend HR people.

And the same goes for the office tech guy. If you need something difficult done to your PC, how much faster do you think he’ll get it done if he enjoys your company?

And don’t even get me started on the number of job opportunities I’ve had come to me just by being friendly and outgoing wherever possible. 🙂

In summary, BE OUTGOING! Make friends wherever you go. You should do it simply because it’s fun to do, and the bonus is that the rewards can be incredible!

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