You’ve felt this before: you are somewhere with a lot of people, but you realize that you are totally and utterly alone. Maybe you know a few people at an event, but no one you know is around. Other times, you’ve come to a different city, and you haven’t yet figured out who you know or don’t. Crowds, it turns out, can make one feel really lonely.
Pre-Stack the Deck in Your Favor
When I travel someplace and I know I have a little time, I check my LinkedIn contacts to see who identifies as living in that area. Because I have a decent-sized LinkedIn database, this usually nets me a few results (places like New York City show me having around 1500 connections just in that city). If I want to decloak entirely, I’ll ask via Twitter if anyone from that area might want to get together while I’m in town. This means, before I even arrive, I’ve got the opportunity to know someone in a crowd.
I do this at events a slightly different way. I search via Google Blogsearch and Twitter to see who’s talking about the event. I follow links back to those people who seem interesting, and decide whether I want to bug them that I’ll be at the event, to see if we can get together. I ask them about the good parties and dinners, because people often assume that I’m set up and that I know what’s happening, but that’s usually far from the truth.
Between these methods, I usually get past the sense of not knowing anyone.
When we get into that lonely mode (for instance, if everything fails and you really are the only person around at an event or a place), there’s a constant potential that you will cling to the first person with whom you connect in any decent way. You’ll follow them around the halls, will sit with them at the breaks and at lunch. While this sometimes makes for the start of a vibrant new friendship, it also often limits you from finding even more people of potential interest. It also gives the poor person who was being kind to connect with you a favor, if they want some time away to do other things. I’m not saying that you are clinging, but some people get into that situation.
Dare to Introduce Yourself
In my newsletter, I just shared with the group there a (nearly) never-fail method of introducing yourself into a conversation at an event of some kind. I even gave folks a chance to practice. (If you didn’t get that newsletter, sign up here for free.) Introducing yourself sounds scary at first, but with some practice, you’ll find that you can get a jump start on eliminating the loneliness of the crowd.
Stop Hiding (But Hide A Little Bit)
I see lots of people bury their face in their phone as a way to “hide” in a crowd. I’ve done it. You probably have, too. It’s okay to do this a little bit. But don’t lean on it. Don’t make it a crutch. Consider it a condiment and not a meal.
What Have You Done to Alleviate Loneliness?
What else have you done to bring yourself to a better comfort level when in a crowd of unknowns? What about if you’re shy? What’s your methodology for that?
And if you are responsible for selling for your business (or on behalf of your clients), how do you jump the hurdle of feeling alone in a crowd and become active in your business’s success?