Tuesday, December 05, 2006

small talk

Think about some of the people you are really glad you know, people who energize or interest or comfort you. When did you first meet them? Pick one at a time, and let your mind go all the way back to that first encounter. Were there fireworks or parades to let you know that this was the start of something big?

Most of us start small. We meet someone through a shared acquaintance or shared activity. We exchange a few words in a few minutes. We walk away thinking "nice guy" or "bright lady." Sometimes, it barely registers that we have met someone new: the meeting flows quickly away in the data stream.

Except something clicked somewhere. Some small light went up on a dashboard somewhere in our heads, that told us to welcome a second conversation, or to remember this person if we encountered a particular set of circumstances in the future. Somewhere, we knew we had a place for this person in the ongoing story of a project, a career or a life.

This is one of the times of year when we meet lots of people - sometimes for the first time. Stand at the edge of a room for a moment and watch the people as they mingle. Notice that each is looking for the people who fit into one of the stories that they are living - stories with rivals and supporters and bit players with key pieces of information. They are not trying to judge the absolute worth of the people they meet, only to notice the "click" that says that someone will enter their stories again.

Think of those people who came into one of your stories, those people who have energized or challenged or nurtured you. Remember the small talk that marked the moment when something clicked and you knew just enough to meet these people again, just enough to begin the small relationship that would develop into something big.

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