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Treating Strangers like Friends

On Tynan

When you travel with someone for a year or two, you pick up their habits. One of Todd's habits that I most admire, and am thankful to have picked, up is the practice of treating strangers like friends. When he goes to a restaurant and the waiter asks him how he is, he tells him what's going on in his life and returns the question in such a way that it obligates a genuine response. When we leave a restaurant, everyone we know gets a hug.

I get nostalgic, mostly for times I wasn't alive for. Like the middle ages. And, more relevantly, like the days before computers and cell phones, when neighbors actually recognized each other, and maybe even talked to each other. Shopkeepers were called shopkeepers, and they knew their customers by name. Their conversations extended beyond a scripted sales pitch for a rip-off extended warranty. I miss these times because I've seen them in movies and read about them in books, not because I've really experienced them.

Simple habits can be profound. One such habit that is more important than ever is to treat strangers like friends. Facebook, cell phones, and other "social" technologies have done to friendship what laminate flooring did for hardwood floors. It made things easier and more accessible, but did so at the cost of substance. In fact, this is happening in pretty much every area of life, something I've realized more fully now that I'm trying to find meat with substance; it's almost impossible. So I try to treat everyone as though they're a real person, just in case they actually are. Unfortunately I can't answer all my email anymore, but when I do I try to write to the person as if they're my friend, rather than use stock replies (which I could do, since a lot of the things people write about are similar). Once in a while I even fill someone in on secret future plans or send them a draft of something. When interacting with random people in everyday life, I make an effort to actually listen to them and to talk about things that they may not have talked about with every person they've interacted with that day.

You never know who is going to rise in the world...


Question on "The Persistent and Timely Will Inherit the Earth" -

Which is the best methods for dealing with people that correspondences aren't as much interesting as many with other people, and that you don't feel there is a fit, but they are really nice and want to connect with you ?

One thing I've learned is that you never know who is going to rise in the world.

Just writing to a random stranger on the internet shows a decent amount of tenacity on someone's part. Most people won't do it. So you're already filtered down to people who will put themselves out there a little bit and take a bit of action.

I know a guy who applied to work for me in a job when he was still in high school some years ago. I couldn't say yes to that - didn't want to deal with labor law, signing a contract with a minor (including IP assignment, work for hire... I don't know, seemed like it would have been a nightmare) - but he seemed like a good guy, so I took him out to lunch at a little Greek restaurant near my office and just asked what's going on his life.

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