Think back to the moment you met a person who is now important in your life. Can you remember where you were? Do you remember the circumstances surrounding the meeting? Do you remember what you talked about? How did that first encounter “happen,” and how is your life different because of it?
Even the most important people start out as strangers and passionate endeavors begin as small ideas. Some people seem to “stick” in a way others don’t. When they do stick, life opens up in new ways and we have time to explore novel opportunities. Yet, too many chance encounters fall away like tiny pieces of paper with no adhesive.
The first step towards correcting this is realizing how this transformation takes place through a chain of unforeseeable events. Many moments along the process may appear as insignificant, as when you bump into a colleague at the office cafeteria, but they have the potential to snowball into something greater.
Unfortunately, we often simply exchange a token greeting and go on with our day, but what might have happened if we approached it differently? Perhaps the problem is that we too quickly conclude that there is nothing to talk about. Sometimes even when we’d like to get to know the person better, learn more about what they are working on, we still fail to convert these ordinary moments into more meaningful ones.
How can one apply this sticky strategy to the seemingly random interactions in our day?
We propose using an “adhesive” that you can apply to a moment to increase its stickiness, extending the window of opportunity. It’s called, possibility oriented awareness (POA), a disposition towards imagining what might be, instead of being limited by what is. We believe that if you apply POA to your daily encounters, the encounter might last long enough for you to notice not just what is but what could be.
Here are three steps you can immediately begin using to start adding the adhesive of POA to your day.
1) Reframe the familiar: Encounters won’t stick if we downgrade our view of a moment to “routine”. Familiar spaces are brimming with new possibilities for us to seize if we adopt Marcel Prousts’s advice, “The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
2) Stay Through Awkwardness: Once you’ve upgraded a familiar moment, you’re more likely to see people as potential missing links rather than as wallpaper. If you want to explore a possibility with a “stranger,” don’t rush away at the first long pause. Tolerance for a bit of floundering is a must.
3) Search for A Sticky Topic: As much as we have to embrace some awkwardness, if we don’t eventually find mutuality, stickiness will be insufficient. For a conversation to stick it requires that you find some common ground. Linking one adhesive comment after another allows you to build upon a serendipitous idea that connects you both to an opportunity.
Remember the focus here is on surfacing unexpected value. Too often we rush through our days checking off the boxes of a seemingly endless list without realizing what we are missing. We’re surrounded by people – in the elevator, waiting in line, on public transport – each of which may very well have a gem of insight we could benefit from. We need to become better at accessing those hidden gems in others, and we need to become better at sharing our own.
Of course, not every meeting or idea is ripe with opportunity, but maybe more could be if we knew how to make them stick. Next time you interact with someone new, approach it with possibility oriented awareness. Reframe the familiar, stay through the awkwardness and search for a sticky topic. The result may be grander than expected, and even if it isn’t, hopefully the conversation will have helped the time pass.