I went to a mentoring seminar recently which was about how to find the right kind of mentor. I generally like to go to these kinda of events more for the networking opportunities than the actual content. However, I found this session particularly interesting because the presenter, Dan didn’t make the session about how to create a master and apprentice situation (despite the best efforts from the audience to steer it there). Instead, what he actually tried to focus on was the fostering of the Robin Williams/Matt Damon Good Will Hunting kind of relationship, where the mentee helps the mentor as much as the mentor is supposed to help the mentee.
On his website Dan describes himself as a Speaker, Mentor and Lifestyle Entrepreneur. In person, he described himself as someone who makes people happy while keeping his pants on. Based on those two statements, you could be forgiven for thinking that he was a self confident bag of bullshit. After all, the topic is so full of cliches such that why would you pay for something Instagram quotes can tell you everyday.
This is why it was pleasing that Dan went a step further and went through an exercise which I like to call: Being Interesting!
You can’t please everyone but it’s possible to be interesting to everyone. The best bit about that is you can also have a bit of fun with it. Being from Adelaide, the majority of conversations will include these two rather boring questions:
1. What school did you go to, and
2. What do you do?
To avoid a boring presumptuous conversation the first thing to do is to not ask such insightful questions. However, you will invariably get asked this at some point so it’s best to come prepared. Depending on the situation, I like to answer the first question with the less well known, Hackney High (thereby allowing people to not let its presumptuous cousin, St Peter to get in the way). For answer number two I have a couple of responses which again depend on the situation and how much I think someone will appreciate my crap sense of humour.
As such to answer question number two, I like to say ‘I’m a doctor’ (I’m not actually one – at least not the traditional kind) or ‘I watch people dig holes!’ More often than not I then get asked what kind of doctor; to which I reply ‘dirt’ (FYI I’m a geotechnical engineer who sometimes has to ‘diagnose’ soil; hence the affectionate name given to me by site personnel).
I find that not only do I enjoy new potentially awkward conversations so much more when I try to be a bit more creative with my answers but people also feel more willing to open up.
The saying ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ exists for a reason. Therefore being able to get people to open up is probably the number one skill anyone can achieve. So go out there and be creative with your answers and you’ll probably find you start to make progress with so many more people.
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