Single in the City is a reoccurring column on Philly Happening that will appear on Wednesdays. It chronicles a single thirty-something, new to the Philadelphia, searching for friendship, love, and her place in this vibrant city.
When it comes to relationships, just as with business, always be on the lookout for opportunity. Even in the bathroom.
A few weeks ago, I attended a formal event. I was in the bathroom washing my hands, when I struck up conversation with the woman next to me at the sink. We started talking about which soap dispensers and faucets weren’t working, then somehow ended up talking about her gym. Just then, another woman, who had overheard us from the stalls, emerged and joined the discussion. It turns out that the one lady at the sink was a gym owner and the lady who emerged from the stalls, was a blogger. All three of us were interested in each other’s lines of work and exchanged business cards.
As we were exiting the bathroom, we commented on how you can meet some really good contacts when you’re not looking for them, in places you wouldn’t expect: the bathroom, the elevator, on the train. “I’ve always had good ‘tight space meetings,’ one of the women said with a laugh.
The following day, I received an e-mail from one of the women, with the subject line, “Bathroom meeting.” She wrote how nice it was to meet me and to please stay in touch and reach out if we can ever benefit each other.
This is a great example of a successful “tight space meeting.” A few important lessons can be learned here.
One: Be aware.
All three of us commented that we often meet good people when we’re not looking, in places we wouldn’t expect. If that’s the case, then imagine how many good people we would meet if we were looking, and if we came to expect that meetings could happen at any time, any place, even in the bathroom?
Two: Expect the unexpected.
Even though we commented that it is unexpected to meet someone in the bathroom, the train, or the elevator, is it really unexpected? Going to the bathroom throughout the day is standard for everyone. It’s also not strange to ride in elevators with people. How else would anyone get to the 30th floor? As for taking the train, well, how else do people commute to the suburbs when they don’t have cars? You cross paths with people–a lot of people– in these places all time.
The point is that every situation throughout your day is an opportunity to meet people. There is never going to be a designated time, place, or blinking fluorescent light announcing the perfect time to strike up conversations. (Believe me, I’ve waited for the blinking light before. Let’s just say that there were many conversations not had!)
Plus, meeting in say, the elevator, is far less intimidating than meeting someone in a business meeting or on a blind date. The everyday-situation-encounters can level the playing field. Take advantage!
Three: Be prepared.
During the ‘tight space meeting,’ in the bathroom, two of us had business cards in our purses. The two of us that did have cards were able to exchange with each other and connect after the meeting. The lady who didn’t have a card with her, got my card, so it was up to her to reach out to me. I never heard from her, which brings me to lesson four.
No matter how great your initial meeting is, if you don’t follow-up, then what was the point? If you get the person’s business card, connect with them on linked-in, send an e-mail, or if you exchange numbers, shoot them a text. On linked-in, always bypass the generic invitation and write a personal message. For linked-in or e-mail, subject line: “Bathroom meeting,” or “Met you on the Train.” For a text: “This is __________. Nice meeting you in line at Joe Coffee a few minutes ago. Let me know when you’re in the neighborhood again and we’ll meet for coffee!”
Almost as important as the follow-up, if not more important, is the follow-through. Do what you say you’re going to do. If you say you’re going to e-mail that person about meeting up again, or you will text them next time you’re in the neighborhood, then do it! Otherwise, you have just wasted your time. Not to mention that doing so will validate your word and build the other person’s trust in you.
I’ve gotten pretty good at the ‘tight space meeting,’ or even the open-space ones, such as in the nail salon. I’ve made several good business connections at City Nails, after striking up conversation about nail polish colors. I met one of my future college roommates in the bathroom while brushing my teeth, I met a friend in the elevator, a potential-yoga partner and a subject for an article on the train, and once became Facebook friends with a girl that I met at the hand dryers in Irish Pub.
For friendships and business connections, I’m fine; however, when it comes to being cognizant of potential romantic connections, that’s where I used to struggle.
My friend Erica once said to me, “If there was a rabbit and a hot guy traveling down the street, you’d say: ‘oh look! There’s a rabbit!”
Some habits die hard, but if you’re aware, expect the unexpected, are prepared, follow-up, and follow-through, you’ll be surprised at the relationships that can flourish.