Picture: Brian with 30 yr veteran volunteer firefighter and Lincoln Nebraska Police and Fire Dept Rep Karla Houfek
Karla has a way about her that instantly connects with people. Her knowledge of the fire service, a previous career with State Farm Insurance and add her son a Lincoln Firefighter, She has many commonalities to connecting with others.
Her approach is simple. She’s genuinely interested in protecting and caring for police officers and firefighters. It show’s by her non-verbal habits like returning phone calls, eye to eye contact and the ability to listen intentionally. She’s inspired me to write about one individual who impacted everyone she met.
How do you approach a person you don’t know and connecting within a few seconds?
While working in a executive lobby of a hotel in Chicago I heard one of the employees communicating and connecting. Not only was she connecting but she was connecting with each person she met. It was so amazing that I decided to intentionally listen to her and write down what she did. First she was enthusiastic and positive. Energetic and excited. She gave hope to each person and a positive outlook to everyone. Her pre approach was genuine and meaningful. I took a few notes as to what worked for her. She was friendly and very approachable herself. Here are a few tips that I heard that day.
Even Firefighters & Police Officers can learn to connect. Networking is essential whether on duty or off. If you can take just a few of these approaches and make them your own you’ll be awesome at connecting.
Her Pre-Approach to Connecting
- Smile and be happy
- Enthusiastic and positive
- Excited to meet others
- Truly enjoying the moment
- Be the light in seemingly gloomy days
As I watched and listened, I could see her prepare her pre-approach. It was subtle but you could tell she would turn it on. It takes energy to connect. That’s probably why most don’t connect well. To be excited, positive and enjoy the moment you need to turn it on.
Her double dose approach
- Hi, what a great day? What exciting things are you doing today?
- Hi, are you leaving today? What adventure are you heading to?
- Hi, what do you want in your omelet. I’m fixing special ones for everyone.
- Hi, are you going to enjoy this sunshine? It looks like plenty of opportunities out there?
- Hi, Oh I love that (dress,shirt,tie,nails), It looks great on you. What are you conquering today?
Did you notice what she did in all 5 of these examples? She began each conversation. She didn’t wait for someone to talk to her first. In every situation I listened to, she initiated the communication with a question. Asking a question lets the other person speak. Especially if its an open ended question instead of a yes / no question. Open ended questions take a bit of practice but become very good connecting tools. She was a masterful connector.
How do you leave the conversation?
- You have a very good day. You’ve made mine great.
- I can’t wait to see you again. You’ve really impacted my day.
- Thank you for being so nice. You’ve really motivated me today.
- This breakfast conversation was so good I wish I could make lunch for you.
- I loved talking with you today. I hope I see you again.
As I sat there and listened a i heard a married couple give her a hug of happiness. He told her that she started their anniversary morning off right. She had no idea it was their anniversary. They were so appreciative that they had met her.
She positively connected with each person in the room.
As I worked I was interrupted by a bottle of water being sat on my table. As I looked up she said, “I’m heading out for the day. Thought you’d like a water. Have a great day. It was nice meeting you”.
What an impact.