How Do You Do?

A greeting, a making of acquaintance. I am happy to meet you! How do you do is also a question I’d like to pose. How do you do?

My day is not quite complete unless I’ve made the acquaintance of someone I’ve never met before. I find this exciting, exhilarating and illuminating. People are so tremendously interesting, and from each and every meeting, often the first and last in one, I learn something valuable and hope I have left an impression, as well.

Today, I met lots of “new” people on a hike. Yesterday, I had a brief, but interesting conversation with the cashier at the grocery store, the day before, a very interesting man at a coffee shop. In the past three days, I have had casual conversations with at least a dozen people I’ve never met before. Sometimes, I think I am like the curious, friendly little puppy, panting and happily wagging my tail as I strain against my leash, eager to meet new people.

Hidden Falls Hike with the ladies "Meet-Up" group
Hidden Falls Hike with the ladies “Meet-Up” group

Why do I find people so fascinating? I like to find out what they do. Yes, I love to learn what people do for a living, but more interesting, what they do when they aren’t working. I find that many people live interesting lives, have hobbies and activities that I’ve always wanted to try, or to learn more about. Many people I meet are enthusiastic about their health, or their fitness, or their academic pursuits and I am thrilled to learn what they have to say. Almost always, we end up having a shared interest or shared topic and can chat for some time.

To say I have an energy, or enthusiasm, or confidence might be a little bit of an understatement. I really am eager to meet people and I think it shows when I walk into a room. I find that most the people I end up engaging with have a similar energy level, enthusiasm and confidence. If you believe in the law of attraction, I suppose this makes complete sense; like energies attract like energies. Or, perhaps my energy, enthusiasm and confidence make me a little more approachable than other folks.

I do try to be approachable. I make eye contact with people, and I guess I smile, whether I am aware of it, or not. A couple years ago I was at LAX, Los Angeles International Airport, I was returning home after a long week away, waiting for my last of several flights. It was quite late at night and I was chatting on the phone with my son. People were milling around me as I sat near my departure gate. There were a few flights departing from a few gates clustered close together. After I concluded my call, I did my usual thing, I checked in on Facebook. After I got home, I received a comment on my check in from a man I’ve known since kindergarten and probably haven’t seen since high school. He obviously knew I’d been at LAX, but asked if I had been sitting at gate 81, wearing a black coat and a scarf. Yes, I had. He was standing right next to me, waiting to board another flight, and I was on the phone. He recognized me, I don’t remember seeing him, or didn’t recognize him, but he said I smiled at him. So, I guess I smile, randomly at people, if I am unable to strike up a conversation. I’m not really sure, but so it would seem. I am just grateful, for whatever reason, I have so many opportunities for making acquaintances.

About opportunities; they don’t just happen. No one is going to walk up to your front door and want to meet you, unless they’re selling something. In which case, I don’t generally answer the door. I know exactly what I want to buy, where I want to buy it, when I want to buy it, how much I want to spend on it and where I am going to put it. I don’t need anyone trying to mess up my very deliberate acquisition process. I’m going minimalist. Thank you. Back to opportunities; they are made, they don’t just happen. If you spend most of your leisure time in front of the television, you are not creating any opportunities. The dozen or so people I met in the past three days? I left my house and went out into the world and while I was interacting with society, I made the acquaintance of a bunch of really nice people.

How do you do; how do you create opportunities for meeting people? When I walked into the coffee shop a couple of days ago, I was there to work on a project for work between appointments. I take advantage of free Wi-Fi all the time, I love working from public places whenever I can. I ordered my half-caf and a banana and plunked my computer down at a table near an outlet, which happened to be adjacent to another table with an outlet where a nice looking man had plunked down his computer. I went about my tasks and before long, he struck up a conversation and we chatted, intermittently, for an hour. He was very interesting and found a lot of what I had to say interesting, as well. He left and went about his day, I left and went about mine. Simple as that. But in that meeting and the brief friendly conversation, I learned that he did many different, interesting things to make a living and had some spare time interests in common with me as well. I was smiling.

Today, I deliberately sought an opportunity to meet people. I belong to several “Meet-Up” groups (www.meetup.com). One of my favorites is a local group called “40 Something Women’s Group” and they do all sorts of fun things; dancing, movies, happy hours, brunches, wine tasting, hikes. All things I enjoy. Today, a hike. Of the ten or so ladies in attendance, I’d met two of them previously. During our lovely hike on this very warm, spring day, I enjoyed nature; the green hills, the wildflowers, the waterfalls, not so much the rattlesnake. More than nature, I enjoyed the many conversations I had with various ladies as we strolled along.

Hidden Falls Hike with the ladies "Meet-Up" group
Hidden Falls Hike with the ladies “Meet-Up” group

Of course, you get a bunch of 40 something ladies together, many divorced, and often the topic of meeting men comes up. Many of the ladies use online dating services, with limited success. A lot of energy goes into “meeting someone”. I don’t know, I’ve never tried. For me, it just happens, whether I’m ready, or not. I meet people all the time, one I met turned out to be someone I’d love to share my life with. I most certainly did not set out to find someone of a certain age, height, hair color, income level with specific spare time interests. I drank an oatmeal stout and ate ice cream at a bar, by myself, while traveling for work and I guess I was approachable. I must have smiled.

One of the ladies I chatted with today had a similar experience. She and I agreed that often times we meet someone compatible, someone terrific, someone we click with, when we aren’t trying, at all. We also agreed that rather than working on meeting someone, we put our time to better use working on ourselves. When we like ourselves and have become someone we would like to spend time with, often someone else comes around that feels the same way. I think this is where energy, enthusiasm and confidence come into play. I genuinely like myself, pretty much most of the time, and that translates into a confidence, approachability. And that also explains why I mostly meet people who are confident, energetic and enthusiastic, because they like themselves and are therefore, approachable, likeable. They smile.

If you find yourself dissatisfied with the lack of opportunity to meet people, that can be easily fixed. Find resources for meeting people, like Meet-Ups or other social groups; church, fitness, sports, activities, philanthropies, volunteering, and the list goes on. If you find, no matter how hard you try, you can’t find someone compatible to spend time with, whether friends or for dating or serious relationships, it’s possible you’re working too hard at it, and possibly, you’re working on the wrong person. Work on yourself and when you like what you’ve become, genuinely and completely, chances are, other people will feel the same way about you. Give yourself the opportunity and be approachable, and I’m pretty sure you’ll have more “how do you do’s”! Smile!

Only the Lonely

Let’s banish loneliness from the world, shall we? Sounds like some ideal, like something a large non-profit organization might be pursuing, with ads on television and fund-raising efforts, and efforts at raising awareness. I can see the commercials now; silhouettes of singular people, sitting alone, and some catchy phrase to make you feel guilty, pull out your credit card and donate.

I agree. I think loneliness should be banished. But, as with many things, I believe banishing loneliness begins with the lonely. You. Me. Whoever.

Let’s assume you’re lonely. Why? What is it that makes you lonely? Identify the specifics of your loneliness first, then work to solve it. Is it because you don’t have friends? Because you don’t have a significant other? A soulmate? Fine. So, fix it.

If you spend your free time at home, busying yourself with solitary tasks; television, video games, reading, etc., is it reasonable to expect people to knock on your door and seek out your companionship? Probably not.

I once knew a chronically unemployed man. He sat home all day, every day, un-showered, unshaven, drinking pot after pot of coffee, “looking for jobs online”. True, he would, occasionally, submit online applications, usually for the same job with the same company. The result? Still unemployed, with no recent job experience, no new knowledge, stale skills, no network, no leads, and no hope. I used to ask him, “do you expect some employer with a $120,000 per year job to march up your driveway in search of you?” So, what do YOU expect?

Loneliness is a lot like unemployment. In order to find a job, you need to be out there, shaking hands, making contact, making connections, building your network. You need to be active and relevant. You need to be a face with a name and a firm, comfortable handshake and a genuine smile, not a name on an application, a website or social media. You need to be real. The same is true of companionship.

There are more solutions out there than there are lonely people, I’m pretty sure. If you are lonely, get out a pen and a piece of paper. Write down things you enjoy doing; walking dogs, knitting, debating politics, hiking, driving, watching soap operas, wine tasting, walking, running, cycling, cooking, giving back to the community, worshipping, dancing. Now prioritize your list, circle the top two or three items on your list. Now, find a place where people with similar interests go on a regular basis. A church, a volunteer organization, a hiking club, cycling club, etc.

A great resource I use is MeetUp.com. You sign up, peruse MeetUp groups by interest, sign up for the groups that interest you, and attend some functions. I’ve gone hiking, dancing, running, walking, to happy hour, to concerts, wine tasting, zip lining and I’ve met a lot of folks along the way. The hardest part is showing up to the first function without a “wingman”, but once you get through that, you’ll have several acquaintances and you’ll never be flying solo again. Fear is the only thing holding you back from taking that first step by yourself. Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt says about fear:

“Do one thing every day that scares you” and

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. Do the thing you think you cannot do.”

My point is, loneliness shouldn’t exist if we all take responsibility for ourselves. Which we should be doing, here, and for most things in life. There are 7 billion people in the world, make an acquaintance with one of them, today. Everyday. They may introduce you to another. And another. Now you have a circle of acquaintances, from which friends and significant others may develop.

True, there are people out there, unlikely to evolve, to become enlightened, who will remain lonely because they don’t know they have to power to change their plight, and if you know anyone who fits that description, reach out to them. In so doing you could relieve their loneliness, and yours.

It IS that simple. And if you say it isn’t, you’re just making excuses. The only thing standing in the way is one, singular, lonely person. You. Get out of your way.