Colin Cowherd is currently the host of “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on ESPN radio. Yes, ESPN. He covers sports. But often enough, he’ll rant about entertainment, politics, unions and even religion. Earlier this week at the beginning of his show, he spoke about the benefits of being an extrovert.
Cowherd mentioned that he probably wouldn’t have the job he has if he didn’t have the natural inclination to talk to the people around him — cab drivers, people in the elevator, those he meets at airports or in sports stadiums. He rattled off statistics about how many more people succeed in their lives simply because they’re extroverted. If you have the ability and confidence to talk to people serendipitously, good things happen. I think he’s right. Think of all the times you were just going about your business and you could have struck up a conversation with someone influential (or anyone really) and found an opportunity. If you never strike up that conversation, there’s absolutely no chance for that opportunity, whether it be to land a job, earn some business, refer business, give some advice, get some advice, learn something, have fun or simply help a brother out.
Here are seven opportunities become more extroverted as you go about your business each day.
1. At the supermarket.
Or at the bank, dry cleaners, deli, Starbucks, barber, dentist, auto service center or wherever life happens to take you as you run your daily or weekly errands. As you’re standing in line or sitting in the waiting room, instead of texting, tweeting, or playing Angry Birds, look for someone nearby that has “smiley eyes” (a term I learned from a media coach) and say hello. Strike up a conversation. Ask a few questions about them, comment about what they’re reading, ask what they’re having done to their car, whatever. If the conversation feels right, it will continue, if not simply go back to doing what you’re doing.
2. On an airplane.
Since I do a lot of business travel, I’m on airplanes all the time. Typically, there’s a fellow business traveler seated next to me and I can’t help but say hello. Travel is a lonely business, so it’s not such a stretch to greet someone sitting only six inches away from me. Besides, we’ll be six inches apart for 2,000 miles and 35,000 feet so why not introduce myself? Nobody has ever changed their seat to escape me (that I know of). And I’m sensitive to keep the talk light, appropriate to the tone, and to allow for the solitude that a good book or a nap might require.
3. In the airport.
I’ve watched more playoff baseball games in airports than anywhere else. It seems whenever my flights have been delayed, it’s Game 2 of the American League Division Series. That means a crowded bar at the airport with a lot of frustrated travelers all too happy to talk baseball. Of course, other questions I might ask include, ‘How long is your flight delayed? Where are you headed? Do you travel often? What type of work do you do? Who do you work for?’ Then, I just go from there.
4. At your kid’s game.
In my case, it’s my daughter’s cheerleading events and competitions, or cheering at the football game. But the same applies whether your kid plays football, soccer or baseball. If you happen to be one of the coaches, you have an opportunity to get to know the other volunteer coaches. If you’re a parent that stays on the sideline or in the stands with your hot chocolate, introduce yourself to the people you probably see every week. ‘You know I see you here every week. I’m Michael! Which child is yours? Nice to meet you. What type of work do you do when you’re not spending five hours at cheerleading?’ And so on.
5. Your extracurricular activities.
I spend time meeting and getting to know people at my gym, while boxing and in my softball league. I think Fantasy Football leagues qualify. Some of the players in my softball league are accountants, financial advisors, attorneys, various sales reps, business owners, mortgage brokers and realtors. One of my boxing sparring partners is an international equity trader. Over the years, I’ve become a client to those I got to know through my softball league. And I’ve helped enough of the players with their resumes and job search. My leagues and activities have led to many friendships and a great community.
6. With your clients, referral sources and advocates.
Why not look to create more opportunities to spend time with those you do business with? Make it a point to set one day a month on the calendar to grab lunch, dinner, a drink, a ball game, a jazz performance or whatever your thing is with a client, referral source, advocate or even a prospect. Every quarter, I have lunch with one of my favorite clients. It’s a standing date that involves sushi, conversations about our favorite television shows (we have a lot in common here) and other events in our lives. It’s a lot of fun. Not by design, we talk about business for about five minutes.
7. When the spirit moves you.
There might be other times that you’re going along your merry way and you have the opportunity to start a dialogue, weigh in on someone else’s conversation, or offer to help somebody out. Remember, if you don’t ask the question, the answer is always no. So always ask the question and be on the lookout for opportunities that may fall in your lap.
Please keep in mind that you don’t have to be a small talker, have the gift of gab or be an extrovert to talk to strangers. (By the way, Cowherd mentions mom’s advice about not talking to strangers is great advice until you turn about 15.) And you don’t have to be an extrovert to be more extroverted. But like with anything, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. But it helps. Start practicing now. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Don’t save your small talk for the elevator. You could end up on the radio.
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