Hi, everyone. Let me begin this post by asking, “Do you have friends?” So, think of the first time you met some of your friends and one thing that is common. They were once strangers. Our featured successful and influential person may be a stranger but that won’t last. Because when you finish reading this interview, Kerrie Phipps will be your friend.
Before continuing, I’d like to share a mind-boggling number with you. Let’s say I know a hundred people and they are my first-level connection. Each one of them knows another hundred people and they become my second-level connection. By the fifth level, my total reach would be a whopping ten billion people. Of course, that number is way over the global population.
So, what’s my point here?Far too often, we measure the importance of other people by what we could get in return. Click To Tweet
But what if the person you ignore today is someone who could have connected you with people of value to you? And what if the nobody becomes somebody one day?
As fate, would have it, Kerrie Phipps met someone who knows someone, and so on, until we finally connected. And connecting with strangers is nothing new for Kerrie. After all, she is the author of the bestselling book DO Talk to Strangers. Once she was my third-level connection, today we have a first-level connection.
Hi, Kerrie. On behalf of everyone, let me say thank you for being gracious in accepting my invitation to be here. Today, you are one of the leading experts in communicating with strangers. It’s normal for people who see you speak on stage to have the impression that you were born with the gift of the gab. I could add pleasing personality, confidence, and many other positive attributes.
Fear of Public Speaking
Was the young Kerrie Phipps the same Kerrie Phipps today?
In some ways, yes. In terms of confidence, NO! I was always tuned-in to the people who didn’t quite fit in, lacking confidence or excluded from groups. I was always a risk-taker, with my Dad’s sense of adventure influencing and encouraging me to try new things. But I wasn’t comfortable in front of a crowd at all, not even with a small group of people. I was terrified and sick at the thought of making a speech, a class presentation, or even ‘saying a few’ words at a birthday or engagement party.
Most people have a fear of public speaking and I was no different. I had a fear of judgment, of people misunderstanding and rejecting me. Somehow, though, I found myself being the one to speak up at events and parties. I’d speak up despite a massive internal struggle that caused a shaky voice if I felt there is a need to say something.
For instance, at a party, the host might invite ‘anyone’ to speak about the ‘guest of honor’. The room would fall silent as everyone looked at each other waiting for someone else to speak. My heart would start pounding as the silence grew longer. I’d feel that ‘someone has to say something’ to honor the person we’d all come to celebrate with.
So, I’d speak up when my desire became greater than my fear. It would be my desire to honor and rescue the ‘guest of honor’ from the humiliation of standing in silence.
How Kerrie Phipps Overcame the Fear of Public Speaking
When did you realize that you could use your desire to your advantage?
I think it was a journey of many moments of insight since 2004 when I began working with and training to become a coach. “When you’re nervous, you’re thinking about yourself,” one of my coaches said. This was so powerful and I realized that I only need to shift my focus to think of others. It’s not about what others think of me, but how I could serve, encourage, and motivate.
Once, at a funeral service, no one stepped up to say a few words about the deceased. It was such an awkward moment but everyone was too upset to speak. Even if I felt like being the least qualified to speak, I still went to the pulpit. I didn’t know what I was going to say until I faced the people, then I spoke about how blessed we were by the deceased.
It was one of those moments that I realized I was speaking on behalf of those who couldn’t speak for themselves. After the service, several people thanked me and said they wanted to speak, but couldn’t. I couldn’t too if I had not shifted my focus from how I felt to how others might be feeling. I could have sat there but I thought of how we all wanted to remember the deceased as a joyful and encouraging influence in our lives.
That was a clear example of the difference it makes when I take away self-interest and think of serving others. In business, we get nervous when we focus on getting what we want such as new clients or bigger sales. But the words flow out when we focus on serving, delighting, inspiring, encouraging, and helping others get what they want.
Kerrie Phipps on Connecting with People
Talking is one thing, communicating is another thing. But John Maxwell also said, “Everyone communicates, few connect.”
Are there ways to develop the habit of connecting?
It’s so true, everyone communicates yet few connect, which is why John Maxwell, I, and other connectors write and speak about this. We can learn to have a powerful connection with authenticity and confidence. Once we pay attention to shifting our mindset, then we begin making better choices.
The easiest way to shift our mindset is to be open about it and be honest with ourselves. We have to slow down a little and pay attention to our insights. We have the opportunity for insights whenever we read blogs or have conversations, listen to podcasts or attend conferences. But often, we rush to absorb as much as we could that we don’t listen to our intuitive response.
We need to stop and write things down, underline key thoughts that resonate in books. We ask ourselves questions or have a coach ask us questions that help make sense of how we interact with the world. Be open to new thinking, be honest with ourselves, keep looking for insights and pay attention so we learn from them.
There’s an element of listening to ourselves. But listening to others without judgment is also important to see new perspectives.
St Francis of Assisi prioritized ‘understanding’ over being ‘understood’. We all want to be understood. So, if we put aside our need and ‘seek to understand’ others, then we honor people by making them feel understood. They are now more likely to connect with us and give us an opportunity to be understood.
If we serve first without agenda, then we will find that others serve us too.
Focusing on the Positives
A couple of things come to mind, Kerrie. One is the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. We must not form an opinion or judgment to keep an open mind, he said. Another is about serving without agenda.
People do have a tendency to listen only to those who are already influential. But most people also do not learn how to position themselves where others would listen to them. As a result, the idea of leadership by servitude is often dismissed or taken for granted. But serving is the key to increasing influence, a precursor of true leadership.
I’ve met a few people who say they keep to themselves because they have been burned by others. What are your thoughts on this?
Are we letting the sting of rejection keep us inhibited?
Or better, do we focus on the wins and little moments of connections and smiles?
A lot of people have told me that up to 99% of the time, talking to strangers is above average or good. They find it worthwhile even if it’s a momentary connection. But sometimes, people focus on the 1% and it seems bigger.
Some may say, “I helped a stranger once, but she was rude to me.” “I stranger I talked to on a train ignored me.” Because of the negative experience, “I am not talking to strangers again.” It’s amazing to see people persevere in building a variety of skills, but gives up on connecting with others easily.
This shows a lack of resilience and a fear of rejection. From looking at the other aspects of our lives, we know we can be resilient and fears can be overcome. So, it all comes back to where we want to focus on.
Awareness When Communicating
Kerrie, I agree. I once posted about how people tend to tilt towards the negative. So, instead of letting go and keep on doing something positive, a lot of people stop. A little negativity here and there, and they feel like the whole world is against them.
Anyway, I think the fear of rejection is one reason why people hesitate to talk to strangers. Another reason could be because they are shy.
How can a person overcome shyness to approach and talk to a stranger?
Yes, it’s true that the brain tends towards the negative. But the good news is that we can change our mindset. We can choose how we think and in time, develop the habit of reframing the negative to something we approach with curiosity and anticipation. Shyness can become boldness, and self-centered can become genuine interest in others.
It all starts with awareness. Once we become aware of the conversation in our head, we can change it.
Is it possible to have influence within the first few minutes of meeting new people?
Yes, absolutely. And the best influence comes when you’re positive, enthusiastic and authentic. People feel it, even subconsciously, so it truly is best to be yourself.
Kerrie Phipps From Coach to Author
A lot of people in my circle are not only bloggers, some are also aspiring writers. I think it’s natural for bloggers who have been blogging for a few years to have thoughts of publishing a book.
How did you get started in coaching and later, what led you to write a book?
It was writing that brought me to coaching – writing in my journal and asking myself the big questions. When I discovered coaching, I knew that was what I’d been looking for. I’d finally found a way to significantly help people as a coach. By hiring my own coach, I was able to make great progress with dreams that were almost buried in the ‘too-hard basket’.
One of my personal goals was to ‘unleash the writer within’ because I wrote in my journal. Although I struggled at sharing anything I wrote, I had hopes that ‘one day’, I could write for a magazine.
That opportunity came only weeks later when I had a successful interview for a magazine. The editor asked me to write for them every month. Her feedback on my first article was so positive and encouraging. She told me to keep doing this for a year and you would have a book.
Unleashing Kerrie Phipps the Author
I’d like to know more about your bestseller. But first, let’s talk about hindrances.
What did have you to go through and how did you overcome those hindrances, if there are any at all?
Knowing that a professional believed in me was key to believing that I could write a book. As I continued my coaching journey, I became more self-aware and brave to the point that my desire to share was greater than my fear of ‘not enough’.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the uniqueness of Neuroleadership coaching (not NLP). It’s an incredibly SAFE place to think aloud dreams and ‘what if’s’. I crave those conversations because that’s where the best thinking is done. But I think that’s for another blog post.
There definitely are hindrances but MOST are in your head. We have so many arguments with ourselves as we write, and it’s there that the battle is either won or lost. Practical things can be worked out, but most people leave their book on the back shelf of their minds where they forget about it.
Apparently over 80% of the population think they have a book in them, that ‘one day’ they might write a book. I’m not sure how many actually do but I think the number is rising. We don’t have to go through hundreds of rejections to be published now as we can do it ourselves. But make it a quality product by:
1. Working with a coach to ensure your best thinking, creativity and authenticity are expressed in your writing, as well as organizing your time and being accountable to getting it done.
2. Working with professional editors and designers to make sure you have a quality, saleable product.
Kerrie Phipps on DO Talk to Strangers
There are a thousand reasons why talking to strangers is an important skill. More than the skill itself, it’s understanding why it’s important in the first place. And that brings us to your bestseller.
What is your book, DO Talk to Strangers, about?
The book is an effort to encourage people to connect and the scenarios in which we do. It’s also about the need to connect and the ‘how to’s’.
A connection is at the heart of any kind of progress. It affects our health and wellbeing, even the functioning of our communities. There’s a recent article by an economist about how a connection is good for the economy. But somehow, it’s one of the most difficult, awkward and scary aspects of life.
So, rather than shying away, we need encouragement to learn and practice connecting. And our practice is never wasted. We can gain insights, learn more about ourselves and others, and make a difference in the lives of other people.
As one of the participants in the recent Connect with Confidence event said, “Everyone goes through this, but Kerrie actually talks about it.” We need to talk about communication. While the book’s title is DO Talk to Strangers (to challenge the fear-based advice to NOT), it’s as much about listening too.
We listen for learning, we listen between the lines, but this is intentional listening. When we’re less aware of the impact of our connecting, we often listen for a chance to talk, to say what we want to say.
Family and Friends Were Once Strangers
Connecting by listening. I think all self-help books and coaches preach the importance of listening. Come to think of it. In some ways, every person in our life at some point were strangers.
Even our own mothers can be strangers too, isn’t it?
We can live in the same house for years and still be strangers, choosing only to talk about what feels safe and comfortable. So yes, even our own mothers. We need to take our listening to another level. We need to be okay with awkward moments, asking or being asked questions and being open and curious, rather than defensive.
Value of Connecting with Strangers
There are people who have vested interests. Insurance agents, network marketers, anyone in marketing and sales need to talk to strangers. Without the need as a matter of obligation, most people do not see the value of doing so.
What do they need to know to understand that regardless of profession or career, talking to strangers may have huge benefits for them?
Reflect on the people in your life – how did they come to be there? You mentioned this earlier, Robert, and it’s so important. Also, consider that while you might have enough people in your world right now, people move on. It’s proven that our well-being is directly tied to a sense of connection with others. If you had a 90% chance success in something, you’d be bound to give it a go more than once.
So, don’t give up if your first steps don’t go so well. Review your attitude. If you are willing to connect with warmth, kindness, and generosity of spirit, you’ll always find yourself well connected.
Stop Being an Alien
In coffee shops, strangers have talked to me more than I have tried to start conversations with some. The crazy thing is that most of the time, their intention is pretty clear. As soon as I respond, they shove flyers or business card to my face.
I do understand these people, though. For instance, people working as property sales agents need to talk to a certain number of people in one day.
How could people in sales and marketing, including network marketers, do it better?
People who “have to talk to people” for their jobs, like anyone, need to remember this. They are talking to real human beings. Regardless if in person or online, always be respectful, fun, prompt and enthusiastic.
Imagine you’re on the receiving end – see it as a chance to make someone’s day. Also, believe in your product or service. Find employment or a business opportunity that you actually want to share with people.
If your focus is truly on helping people, more than just getting a few dollars in, you’ll connect with more confidence and happiness.
Personal Development Books
Kerrie, in as far as growing one’s self, one of the things a person could do is to read books. Developing the habit of talking or conversing with a stranger is not only a skill but also about belief. Are there books you could recommend that compliments your book DO Talk to Strangers?
Your Brain at Work by David Rock
I was fortunate to be working with David as he was writing this book creating a program of the same name. I had also done all his coach training programs previously. It’s a fascinating look at how the brain works and takes you through a typical day of busyness, demands, decision-making and relating to others. For effective thinking and working – check out this book.
Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect by Dr. Matt Lieberman
I’ve learned from Dr. Lieberman personally at NeuroLeadership Summits. And I love this book as he shares about what goes on in the brain, how we are built for connection and how we are thinking about it more than we realize. It’s brain science, but it makes sense in the real world.
Connect with Kerrie Phipps and #DoTalkToStrangers
Kerrie, we could go on and on, but that would take too much of your time. Before we end this, do you have any final message for the readers?
Do Talk to Strangers! And Do Listen!
I hope to connect with you when I’m next in your area. If you’d like to connect with me, please send a personal note!
Cheering you on to make a bigger difference, Love Kerrie
Final Words on Kerrie Phipps and Talking with Strangers
I was born into my family, and there’s nothing I can do about that. But when I look at the other people who are important to me, each one was once strangers. At some point, while talking with Kerrie, I had a realization that I would like to share with you.
How did I end up communicating and connecting with Kerrie Phipps?
So, I traced back the history of the people whom I had to come in contact with until we met. In other words, I had to be in a situation and meet a certain person in the past to start a chain of events.
Forty years ago, there was a kid sitting behind me in class. He came from the province and didn’t have friends. We couldn’t talk to each other in Filipino, and I couldn’t speak his dialect. Back then, kids don’t speak English so we communicated using our ethnic Chinese dialect Hokkien.
As the years and decades passed by, I met people through him, and more people through the people I met through him.
FOUR DECADES and we continue to be the best of friends, and a result of that first meeting is Kerrie Phipps. The kid who used to sit behind me was once a stranger. But he became a connector and a part of a chain that led to my meeting new and great people.
And so, through me and this post, I’d like you and our featured successful and influential person Kerrie Phipps to stop being strangers. Go ahead, connect with her.
Kerrie Phipps (http://www.kerriephipps.com)