What Dale Carnegie Taught Me About Talking to Strangers

When you hear the name ‘Dale Carnegie’, you’ll either know him right away or it’ll at least sound vaguely familiar (when the Director of Operations at my company mentioned him, I initially thought it was the name of a university…). Dale Carnegie was an American writer and lecturer who wrote multiple books, including the 1936 best-seller “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Dale taught us all a ton about business and business communication skills that surprisingly continue to be relevant almost a century later.

Image result for dale carnegie

Our Director of Operations happens to be a certified instructor of the Dale Carnegie course, and offered to use his knowledge and experience to teach some leadership skills to those of us that volunteered to stay after work for a few hours. So far, after two sessions, the group of 10-or-so of us have already delved to such depths that none of us ever expected we would reach with each other, professionally or personally.

However, instead of sharing on this very public blog all the events that shaped my life, I opt to share instead Dale’s guide to networking.

IMAGINE THIS: a big brass nameplate – on top of that is a 2-story red brick house with a green door. Inside the window of the house is a family and a dog. Coming out of the chimney of the house is a large work glove, which is clutching an airplane. The airplane has one wing and the other wing is a tennis racket – and on the tennis racket is a red light, bouncing up and down. The nose of the airplane is a globe.

Confused? So were we. Essentially, this image is a guide to conversing with a stranger. Let’s break it down:

Two Person in Formal Attire Doing Shakehands

IMAGINE THIS: a big brass nameplate (“Hi, I’m Tara, nice to meet you”) – on top of that is a 2-story red brick house with a green door (“where’s home for you?”). Inside the window of the house is a family (“does your family live around there?”) and a dog (“do you have any pets?”). Coming out of the chimney of the house is a large work glove (“what do you do for work?”), which is clutching an airplane (“do you travel for work? Where was your last vacation?”). The airplane has one regular wing and the other wing is a tennis racket (“do you play any sports?”) – and on the tennis racket is a red light, bouncing up and down (“what do you do in your spare time, when you’re not at work?”). The nose of the airplane is a globe (when all else fails, current events, but should generally avoid topics like religion or politics).

If you ask me, this framework should be taken with a grain of salt. It definitely provides a good base, and in some cultures and situations, it can be appropriate. However, I couldn’t help but think that depending on who I’m speaking to, they may feel uncomfortable with me asking where they live or whether they live with family or not. It’s all about feeling out the situation. In theory, it’s a good way to start, and if it goes well, you may spend 10 minutes on one topic and won’t feel like you’re interviewing the other party! We practiced it among each other and I learned some really insightful things about a coworker I didn’t know very well – I write suspense, and she reads it! If I get a beta-reader out of this, I’ll be pretty thankful to Dale (more so than I already am).

I’d like to know if you guys have ever tried this framework, and if not, try it out and let me know your thoughts! Have a kick-ass week, graduates!

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