There are a lot of people in the world. Many of them are lovely. Some of them I appreciate – from a distance. You have probably experienced that moment when you are stuck in a conversation with someone you would just rather not be talking to and yet you cannot escape.
Devora Zack, author of a useful book for introverts, “Networking for People Who Hate Networking,” offers a practical suggestion that has ethical and spiritual dimensions, in my opinion. Take her advice seriously, and I truly believe the world changes for the better.
What if you were to pretend, for a trial period of three months, that everyone is the right person – if only for the length of time of that particular encounter? What do you imagine would happen?
When you choose to believe anyone in front of you is the person who is supposed to be there at the moment, guess what? Due to your innovative approach to meeting people, you treat her like the right person. She temporarily becomes the right person. You become more animated, less distracted, more interested, and more interesting yourself, opening new opportunities for you both.
I am pretty good at reading people, picking up on subtle cues, and noticing personality indicators. Yet I am regularly wrong about who will eventually become the right people in my life. I think this is important to remember. I like that I am wrong, that I cannot always distinguish who will eventually become important in my life story and who will be forgotten fast.
Behave as if everyone is the right person.
The mussar teacher Rabbi Leffin, in his book “Cheshbon HaNefesh,” writes that one who does not cultivate patience is destined to sip from the cup of affliction. I like Zack’s approach to being present with people you are conversing with, because not only does it prevent you from feeling afflicted with impatience, anger, frustration, but it actually turns the cup of affliction into a cup overflowing with positive potential. No doubt it is difficult to be present and overcome feelings of impatience in practice, but nonetheless I hope to keep this advice in mind and see how it transforms my conversational habits.