Don’t hesitate to chat someone up

My wife laughed at my use of the term “chat someone up,” as she said the phrase is code for flirting. Yet, my intention is not to flirt, but to reach out to others and find some connections. Also, since I do this with men as well, I hope I am not considered to be flirting. With that said, I want to share a few true examples that make life richer and, sometimes, find unbelievable connections.

Last week, we were traveling to my home town three states away to see my mother who we recently moved into an assisted living facility. Early in our trip and a long way from our destination, we grabbed a bite to eat. While paying for our breakfast bill and waiting on my wife, I started chatting up the cashier. Through “where are you going?” questions and answers, it got weird quickly. It turns out her husband grew up one street away from me. When I found out his aunt and uncle lived on the next street over (which was my street), I said my dad worked with his uncle and I played with his son. And, I remembered I had met her husband, as well. So, this entire connection started with me asking her if I should call her general as she had four stars on her apron.

A few years before, I was talking with someone I knew from collaborations to help folks in need. During this conversation, she noted she was going to visit her brother in my home town, again three states away. So, asking her if that is where she grew up, the conversation again got weird quickly. It turns out, she went to my high school and was a year behind me. While my high school was large, we knew many of the same folks and discussed a humorous event that she abetted on stage during a Mr. Ugly contest (where guys dressed up as girls and made fools of themselves). I was in the audience and remembered it well.

She always seemed familiar, so we went on to discuss where she went to college. And, then it got even more weird. She dated the roommate of a friend of mine and I actually was at a party she attended at their apartment. That was why she looked so familiar, more so than the mutual high school time. So, all of these connections were discussed, with a simple question of why are you headed to my home town?

It never ceases to amaze me the many connections we can find if we simply engage in conversation. Or, it may not be a historical connection, but one of just connecting with another passenger on our planet. On our favorite family vacation to Ireland, near the Cliffs of Moher, which are breathtaking, we stopped for a quick bite to eat before we ventured on. In this tiny café, we met Oola. Oola was from Belgium, but her village was so close to the border, she could walk to two different countries quite easily. This was six years ago, but I can still see Oola and her cherubic smile and interest in others. That conversation was one of the great memories from the trip, so much that I can still recall pieces of it six years later.

Why am I writing this? We are part of a fabric of life. Yet, we are talking to people less, too concerned with what we can access with our hand-held devices. We miss so much when we don’t pay attention to what is around us. We miss so much when we don’t engage other humans on our planet. If I had not started simple conversations above, I would have missed out on two interesting paths that crossed with mine and would have not had the pleasure and memory of talking with one of our more interesting souls.

My advice is to put yourself out there. It is not hard. Look for something that strikes your interest or is unusual and start chatting someone up. When working, if I was in someone’s office, I would look at their pictures, diplomas, books, desk items, etc. looking for some connection to discuss. I told my children to search for common bonds with people. Life is short, so if we can find these common bonds, we can make it richer through conversation with others.

19 thoughts on “Don’t hesitate to chat someone up

  1. I’ve always been a bit of an introvert so I wasn’t inclined to “chat people up” as you describe. Then, I met my husband who is quite adept at it. I have learned from him and am now quite comfortable at it. Although I’ve not had the serendipitous chat ups that you’ve had, I love the spontaneous human exchanges I’ve had. You are so right, life is too short not to reach out to others. Those moments have made me richer and, I’d like to think, made the other person richer too.

  2. Note to Readers: My daughter agreed with my wife and looked up the term “chat someone up.” She read to me that it is typically used in a flirtatious manner, so I may want to find another term, especially when I am making conversation with men. What say ye, readers?

  3. It’s something I’ve just started doing in these last years. Surprising how many great people I meet, and how many we have something in common with. 6 separations of Kevin Bacon at work???

  4. Excellent, talk with people. This seems to happen more now than the years of age 25 to 55. Before 25 it was borderline uncomfortable who would approach or how they would “present” their common interest starter conversation. Relief: now I’m old and simply treasure an interest shared with a complete stranger. Then, the enhanced moments of talking with good buddies, and one more piece of the puzzle of their life falls into place.

  5. Note to Readers: Thanks for your comments. I want to pick up further on what Lee observed about demographics, where he would be reluctant to engage in conversation when under age 25. It got me thinking about my experience with my kids as teenagers. The perceived worst offense you could commit would be too embarass them in front of others. So, they would be less inclined to start conversations with total strangers. This would be true even without the hand-held devices.

  6. Note to Readers: Let me add one more story that I just remembered after typing the last note. I was at a fundraising walk for the homeless agency I volunteer with. I started chatting with another volunteer I had not met before. Through the conversation, he started talking about his kids and the story sounded very familiar. I then asked him if his son was John. It turns out his son John has been coming to my house every week for about four years to play a RPG that my son leads.

  7. I love your weird stories. Here’s one of mine. When I worked downtown St. Paul I took the bus most days. One day a newer bus rider approached me and asked if I worked in her building. yep, I do! so she decided to sit by me on the bus “do you mind?” she asked. Not at all! and as we talked she mentioned a trip to Chicago coming up. One thing led to another and we discovered that we were born in the same hospital just outside Chicago and she’s a couple years younger than me. I thought this fit nicely with your fun, weird stories. We became fast friends and had lunch together most days. She made my last several months there much more enjoyable.

  8. We are basically all connected with each other. I believe that every encounter is meant to be. Even what we make out of it is meant to be, because it gives us something that influences us or we gain insights and answers. I like your idea of going through the world with open eyes and most of all with an open heart. The more we open up to others the more we can receive, learn, benefit, and we can give others the feeling of being important! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Keith 🙂

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