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What is the Color of their Eyes?

People that know me well, know that I am really an introvert.  When I am in a networking setting, or a meeting with new people, or a corporate function, I’d rather sit down and read a book than engage with people in the room.  I naturally want to do what I came to do and then get out of there.  I have had to work on these communication skills and change my approach.  It reminds me of a story from an earlier time in my career:

Steve and George

Steve had just entered the room.  I had been waiting for a chance to speak with Steve and knew he was going to be at this event.  I quickly disengaged from my conversation with George, whom I had just met, and went over to talk with Steve about some issues with the upcoming software roll out.  I wanted his support.

The next day while discussing steps in a team meeting to move forward with the project management software roll out, we came to the topic of the new server that was required.  I asked the others in the meeting (our client) how to go about procuring a new server.  The answer was that it was a long, arduous process (uh-oh), unless you could get the Director of Operations on your side to expedite it.  “Who is the Director of Operations?” I naturally asked.  “George,” came the reply.  Yikes.

I thought back to my meeting the day before where I was so focused on Steve that I had cut George short.  Worse, I thought about how my body language conveyed my disinterest in George.  My eyes had been roving and looking for Steve.  My stance conveyed that I was ready to move on as soon as I zeroed in on Steve.

That was eleven years ago, and I still have to work to genuinely engage with everyone I meet.  I have had to push myself over the years, and from the many conversations I have had with many of you, I am not the only person in this boat.

The color of their eyes

Recently, a friend of mine, Dew Tinnin, mentioned something that brings this to an even higher level.  She talked about discovering the color of their eyes.  I think that I have good eye contact - I’ve worked on it over the years.  But this raises the bar and is a great tool to instantly improve your one-on-one communication skills.  I have caught myself, just in the last couple of weeks, losing my focus.  When I work to discover their eye color, it has been a “poke in the side” to really engage and listen.  That makes the other person feel heard and important.  And I enjoy the conversation and usually learn something from it.

Fortunately, I was able to repair what I had done with George and eventually developed a good rapport.  But I truly believe it cost me a couple of weeks on the project timeline.  After all, it's really all about relationships.

So…with whom do you need to engage?  And what is the color of their eyes?




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