A few weeks ago I got a call from a good friend who wanted me to talk to her daughter Alexis. They were moving, and knowing that my parents moved us almost annually, she was hoping that I had some words of wisdom to pass along.
What could I say that would actually help? Did I really know anything that could make this less painful for her or that she hadn't already heard a hundred times before?
When she came to the phone the stress in her voice brought a tear to my eye. This normally bubbly, bright, wonderful kid reminded me of how scary it can be to face the unknown. Suddenly I was eleven years old, trying not to make eye contact as another new teacher tells me to introduce myself to the class.
It was then I remembered a universal truth: there are no easy moves and everybody kicks the new kid. I had to be honest with her, this was going to hurt. As we discussed her fears and anticipations I was reminded that some of the lessons I learned as a new kid continue to feed me today.
For example, I learned that friendship comes in two varieties. It is either rapid and complete, like two magnets clicking together, or it is slowly recognized over time. What leads to both types of friendship, though, is exactly the same: conversation.
Only in conversation can you discover shared interests. Only in conversation can you get to know someone. Only in conversation can you begin to establish a relationship. I remembered that moving taught me to get really good at starting conversations.
So I decided to teach her a few of the strategies we use to start conversations at Happy Grasshopper. Since we're essentially in the business of helping people make friends, I thought it would help.
Here are some of the conversation starting tips I gave her:
- Don't talk about yourself. It's much better to take the initiative and ask questions like, "so what do you like to do around here?" This usually leaves an opening to ask several follow up questions like, "Really, where is that? How long have you been doing that? How did you get started?" Resist the urge to turn every question into a chance to talk about yourself. For most of us, this is really hard.
- Comment on something in the form of a question. This is the classic "Did you see this?" question. We use this as a conversation starter at Happy Grasshopper very frequently. It works because it's direct and non-threatening. I told her, "Don't say 'I watched Jersey Shore last night. Say 'Did you see that Snookie got $32,000 to speak at Rutgers?'" (I always cringe when I mention Snookie...)
- Sincerely listen. This is such old advice, frequently given. Why? Because it is absolutely necessary if you're going to make friends. Have you ever noticed that you really listen to the people you like most? It's a two-way street.
When we finished the call I felt pretty good. She was laughing and didn't seem so stressed. I've seen her posts on Facebook and know from talking to her mom that she's made a bunch of new friends.
In case you haven't seen some of the posts about us here in the Rain, Happy Grasshopper is a web-based referral marketing service. Our team of writers createa fun, friendly email messages and send them right on time. You simply load your contacts and approve each message before it is delivered.
Here is what some other RainMakers have to say about Happy Grasshopper:
“Isn't it amazing that these people respond to the Happy Grasshopper emails and not the others we send?! I think it might be because their message is warm, fuzzy and non-real estate related.”
-Susan Emo (Comment left on another AR blog)
“After my first email went out and I received 4 reply emails. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised. One was from a past client who told me to keep my eyes open as they were thinking about going into a smaller home. That means they will be selling their home as well. Another email was wishing me a Happy New Year and asking me a question about a CO-OP. The third was a friendly reply from someone I just sold a house to and the fourth was from someone I have had on a prospect match who has never replied to any of my other emails. Pretty Amazing!”
-Nancy Fraser (Post about Happy Grasshopper)
“You know what I think of your service. I love it! You are exceptional to work with and I'm so happy I have found you. I send a lot of marketing information to my SOI - like postcards & newsletters (all Real Estate related). You however send that "soulful" email for me - that really makes my clients feel important!! Not Real Estate stuff - but something helpful & unexpected!! Thank you!!”
-Kelly Armer (Comment left on another AR blog)
"I have been really delighted with your Happy Grasshopper emails and non-intrusive way of staying in touch. I am happy to be a reference for you! Every month that the emails go out, I get emails back from clients or friends who don't even realize that this is an automated contact system. I had a call after the last email that went out, from a friend who is going through a divorce and needs help to get the house ready to market, and another friend who just needs a handyman. I LOVE being the person that they contact for these needs. Great marketing!"
-Betsy Purcell (Comment left on another AR blog)