Saturday, August 12, 2017

Breaking Up the Usual

Photo by Paul Bergmeir on Unsplash

There was a moment in my life a few years ago when I realized I had pretty much met every type of person in the world. I think I can put most everyone into an archetype. I haven’t really articulated those out loud, but I can reasonably guess most people's their political leanings, salaries, professions, and lifestyles/beliefs. Sure, I’d be wrong sometimes, but at the moment I'm writing this, I’m sure I can generally figure out how to relate to this random group of people I’m looking at in the coffee shop. I’d talk about startups and business with the spoiled 30-ish male with baseball cap on backwards, I’d talk about the politics of healthcare with the late 50’s white male with shorts and novelty shirt that suggests “I’m retired,” and I’d talk traffic and old Austin with the middle aged lady with the early adult daughter that appears to be developmentally delayed. And so on.

But these kind of topics are so damn predictable that I would only discuss them if I had to, like we were stuck in an elevator for hours, or I needed to make a connection to them in a work or business environment like having to sell them on something.  That makes me feel like a con man and reminds me of Victor Lustig. Here are his Ten Commandments:

  • Be a patient listener (it is this, not fast talking, that gets a con man his coups).
  • Never look bored.
  • Wait for the other person to reveal any political opinions, then agree with them.
  • Let the other person reveal religious views, then have the same ones.
  • Hint at sex talk, but don't follow it up unless the other person shows a strong interest.
  • Never discuss illness, unless some special concern is shown.
  • Never pry into a person's personal circumstances (they'll tell you all eventually).
  • Never boast - just let your importance be quietly obvious.
  • Never be untidy.
  • Never get drunk.
But that's not how you connect with people. That's how you fake connections so you can manipulate them. I really want to ask things like:
  • How many times have you been in love? 
  • What makes you really happy? Really sad?
  • Have you ever been in a fist fight?
  • How do you get along with your family?
  • Where would you live if you could live anywhere on earth?
I think I would be more surprised than I typically am by the people I meet. I would almost certainly have more interesting relationships to them. Maybe I wouldn't feel like I’m trying to pull something over on them, even if it’s just avoiding awkward silence.