The best thing I love about my job is meeting new people and having the opportunity to go really deep into their lives and understand what makes them tick. Most of the time, this is an extremely enriching experience. For instance, yesterday I met a woman who had rather large black pupils in her eyes, like a newborn baby’s, and long eyelashes. As she talked about her experiences for almost two hours, I stared almost continuously into her eyes, mesmerised. This usually happens when I interview. It is like drinking huge gulps of someone’s humanity – by just allowing them to speak freely as you listen with your eyes, ears and heart. I can easily forget the person the next hour or day, and I often do – there are really no feelings attached. It is like a one-night stand of the soul. But it’s quite something. It’s like being hypnotised and stepping out of your own life for a while. It always, always leaves me high.
Coffee shops are ideal places for this kind of exchange to take place; which is why I had started a series called Coffee Shop Stories on my previous blog. They were based on real-life conversations with real women in an unhurried, impersonal setting. From all my experiences of intimate conversations – whether it is a professional interview, a personal advice session, or heart-to-heart chat – here is a list of factors that make for a truly memorable interaction:
1. Sit no more than two feet away from each other. Lean forward.
2. Order only coffee. Food distracts. Coffee stimulates.
3. Maintain eye contact. Ignore the hustle-bustle around you.
4. Keep an open mind about what they say. Do not judge, do not even think. Just swallow.
5. Visualise as the other person speaks. After a while, you will feel as if you have taken a journey through that person’s point of view, walked in their shoes.
6. Don’t rush in to fill silences. Just keep looking into their eyes and allow them to speak at their own pace.
7. The more receptive you are, the more open they will be.
8. Remove yourself from the situation. Make it all about them.
9. Time flies very quickly in meaningful conversations, so schedule accordingly; give yourself plenty of room to linger.
10. Do it often with a variety of people. You grow a little more each time, like collecting energy, and you become better at it.
And then come back and tell me about it. Over coffee.