Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Breaking the Ice

One major problems that I have personally faced when interacting with unknown people is how to break the ice. Approaching someone and starting a conversation is what has always made me nervous and probably is the reason for my introvert nature. There are many things questions running through my mind when I have to approach someone. What should I say? What will the other person say?  How will he/she react? How should I start a conversation? How should I avoid saying something controversial? These are a few of the million questions running through my mind when I have to start a conversation with someone for the first time. Today I would like to share a real life example on one of the best few ways these can be done.

Six months back I shifted to a new apartment in a complex that was then newly constructed. The head security guard of the complex in which it was situated was apparently there since the complex went under construction and hence was a trusted by the management. He was always given the day shift and that too at the location of his choice. Although he was always given preference over his other counterparts, he had many negative personality traits. He knew that the management was biased in his favor and hence would take undue advantage of the situation. He would be take his own sweet time opening the barrier for entry and exit, would be rude to residents, and had started showing arrogance to his colleagues.  He continue to enjoy his position of authority until a couple of months back, when there was a half yearly shuffling of the guards by the agency that the complex had outsourced the security too. Except the head security guard everyone else was replaced. In the new lot the guard who had taken the replacement for the night guard caught my attention. He had all the traits of the an ideal salesman. In fact my learning on the key to breaking the Ice based on observations from him.

On the first day he was on duty I went to take to my dog for a walk before I went to sleep for the night. While walking out of the gate, I heard a man shouting "Good Evening Sir!". I turned around to noticed that it was the new security guard wishing me. I replied with a head nod and a smile and went onto walking my dog.  On way back, the guard walked up to me and with a big smile started a conversation about my dog. He asked about the breed, the age, what I fed the dog and many similar questions. He went on to talk to me for about half an hour.

Over the next couple of days I noticed that it was not only me, but he was the same with everyone. He was always chirpy, promptly acted when needed and most importantly he used to strike up a conversation with everyone. Last week, I saw something that surprised, the new guard had replaced the old guard as the head security guard. So from him I learned a following few things about breaking the ice.

1.  There cannot ever be a negative reply to a simple greeting.

Well I haven't ever seen anybody till date react negatively to anybody who walks up and says hi,  hello, good morning/evening/afternoon. So the golden rule, approach someone with a smile and start with a simple greeting.

2. Have a conversation on a neutral topic and ease into what you want to talk about.

The Security Guard had a knack of starting with neutral topic and have a conversation with you about them till you let your guard and then he got more information out from you which if he had directly asked one would have refused to share or would have reacted negatively.In my case he started with my dog. He obviously was not interested in what I fed my dog and how many times I took her for a walk. But he wanted to get a little more comfortable before he asked me more about myself.

So a neutral topic is next on the road after the initial greeting. One can start a conversation about weather,hobbies, TV shows, movies are all good conversation starters. By personal experience keep Politics, Current Affairs and Religion away from discussion. They are bad conversation starters and a debate on any one is not going to end well.

3. Ask them more about themselves but at the same time share about your own too.

Ask questions about the other person, but also at the same time share things about yourself. You do not want it to appear as an interview neither you want the other person to be feel as if you are doing all the talking. Life is about give and take, so let the conversation be a good balance of sharing.

4. Ease into the matter you want to discuss.

Instead of directly diving into business, or abruptly jumping into a conversation about your product ease into.  Start by generally getting into a conversation about the industry, about the market condition of your target market and probably them get into the talking about your product. They will definitely be more open toward what you have to share.

Well to summarize today's post. I learned from my complexes security guard that never be afraid of approaching anyone. Use right technique and conversation, you achieve what you want to in regards with building new connections.

Monday, 1 December 2014


I finally finished my engineering from a reputed college in south india last December after taking six and a half years for a four year course. The main reason for extra two and a half years was neither lack of skills nor a lack of temperament but it was my apprehension to interact with the world around me. In my first year of college, call it luck or call it destiny, I was allocated a room in a hostel which was in a secluded corner far away from other hostels and housed the children of  "rich parents".  Majority of these guys were outgoing, confident and extrovert. Hence by the end of the first year all my friends were outgoing, social and extrovert. But there was a down side to this too.

I was the only one that cleared the first year. Now I had to find a new set of people whom I could interact with. A task herculean in nature for me. This often left me alone during majority of the time. The group of friends I had made were now attending, or rather were supposed to attend, different classes at different timings and had different schedules. Soon I started missing my regular classes and started spending time alone in my room so as to avoid connecting with more people. This was a slippery slope i went down that took a lot more effort to come out of.

Anyways, the reason I why started this blog began an year ago. I had been working for over 8 years in web technologies and had over 2 years experience in networking and about an years experience in Cloud Technologies, Data Center Migrations, Zero downtime Migrations and other technical mumbo jumbo. But when I started applying for jobs after graduating, I realized that this had no value to them just because I had taken a longer than normal period to finish my engineering. I decided that i will invest some of the money I had earned from freelancing into my pet project and try to make a business out of it.

By July, I finished the development and now it was time to market the product. This is where things started to go down slope. I could create, code and program the most difficult of algorithms, but sales and marketing was not forte. I have since then been trying to get away from it. I have tried everything in my power to avoid contacting customers directly. I have tried using internet marketing, mass SMS, email, etc. All this just to pick up the phone and make a phone call asking for a meeting with the required person. It has been 3 months now and I still haven't broken ground. Now I am left with no option but to gather up the the courage and pick up the phone to make some "cold calls".

After some introspection i have realized, the main reason being my introvert, demure and shy nature is fear of rejection, the fear of failure and the fear of how the other person might react. I have decided to observe the people around me, their actions and the reactions they receive. Learn from my observations so as to try to change my nature atleast on the professional front. I will write my learning from day to day life here so that I can read them later and remember them to help me grow.