The Importance of Talking to Strangers

Last week, I got a letter from someone I cold called in Boston years ago.

Yes, cold called.

Something I said kept him from hanging up on me. Something we discussed brought about a discussion of the early Renaissance, in which I learned that he loves Jan Van Eyck. Finding common ground in my love for history and his love for art, we became friends.

Not too long ago, I had lunch with an entrepreneur I met in the same way. He took my call because he had to hear what someone from a company named “FrogDog” had to say. We had coffee shortly thereafter—though he didn’t need my company’s services—and have stayed in touch since that time, checking in, sharing business stories, making introductions.

Here’s the thing:

You never know how you’ll meet someone who will influence your life.

In line at a bookstore shortly after moving to Houston, I struck up conversation with someone who introduced me to some of the people I hold closest today—and to new business opportunities. At a speaking event, I met someone who first became a friend and mentor and, later, turned into a client as well.

The point?

Look up from your smart phone. Occasionally put down your magazine or book and glance around you. Take off the headphones. Smile at someone. Make small talk. Reach out to someone you don't know. And if a stranger seems to want to chat, let him in.

You just never know.