When riding home one evening in the back of an Uber car, I took advantage of a situation. Sure, I could have sit back quietly and enjoyed the ride in silence. The driver did not have the radio on, so it could have been a peaceful ride.
Instead, I decide to make the ride a bit more interesting. Don’t worry, I was not going to engage in anything illegal. I decided to engage the driver in a conversation. Gasp! Talk to a stranger in Los Angeles? What? Who does that??? Well, I do.
You see, I am a gal from the Midwest. People from that part of the world are not afraid to engage in a conversation. In fact, this art form was eloquently taught to me by my father. I can recall on several instances the following circumstance: I am in a long line for an amusement park ride. My dad is waiting for me outside the ride on a bench until I am finished. By the time I get back from the ride, my dad has had a long chat with the person sitting next to him on that bench. I didn’t even notice the person when I started to get on the ride.
So what was happening here? My dad was a very smart man, and knew that having a conversation would help pass the waiting time. He didn’t want to read a book because he liked to people watch. These were the days before smart phones. So he wold strike up a chat with a complete stranger.
Not only did a conversation like this pass the time, he also learned something. And that is what I am trying to promote here. Instead of looking down and checking your smart phone, strike up a conversation with a stranger. What was so magical about the conversations my dad would have with strangers is what he learned about the other person. He would say things like, “That guy lived just a couple of blocks down from where I grew up in New York. And our parents when to the same social hall for dances and parties.” Or he would say, “The lady I sent next to on my flight is the inventor of body glitter.”
What do you do to learn more? Just start a conversation. I know this is not easy for some people. Striking up a conversation with a complete stranger can be terrifying. But if you want to be a UX designer, you have to break out of your shell and learn how to be comfortable in a conversation with others. It’s ok, the (probably) won’t bite.
- Start the conversation small, maybe make a comment about the weather or the current surroundings.
- Or ask a generic question about something you “seem like” you need assistance with like the time the the store is closing or do they if know….
- Maybe you can make a comment out the phone they are looking at. Ask, “Oh is that the new iPhone? Do you like it?” People love to talk about their gadgets.
- Gage the person’s reaction, if they give you a short answer, they might not want to chat. See how negative they seem.
- If they ask you a question back, it’s a good sign they might want to have a conversation.
- If a person is reading a book or has earphones on, this is a sign they might not want to talk to you. But if they are just gazing at their phone, they are probably just killing time.
- Don’t get too personal. But it’s ok to ask what they do for a living and what they do in that type of job.
- Just remember that people love talking about themselves, and the point of this exercise is to learn, so let the person do a majority of the talking.
- Be brave, learn to read others and be safe.
- But most importantly have fun and embrace the opportunity to learn from every experience.