My father was an independent truck driver, which, when you are an 8 eight year old boy, is one of the coolest jobs in the world. He did short-haul work across New England, bringing wood, sod, fish, pipes, mulch - whatever needed delivering - to various building sites. While it was a fascinating job, I always imagined my dad alone when I thought of him working. Sitting in the cab, higher than any other drivers on the road, behind a steering wheel that my young arms couldn't even reach across. He was a quiet man, a classic introvert, and I thought that riding along alone suited him.
Then one summer Dad bought a truck with a sleeper cab. I went on deliveries with him all summer long and learned something interesting. Dad would pull me out of bed at 4:00 am, and I would go back to sleep in the truck to wake up during the second or third stop at 7:30 am. I watched Dad unload, navigate to the next delivery, unload again, and eventually go to breakfast at 10:00 am.
During this, I saw that my dad wasn't alone. Every stop required coordination with site managers, construction workers or landscapers. Every pickup involved down time in the dispatcher's office while thy loaded his trailer with new materials. And at all of these times, I saw a side of my Dad I had never seen. Dad was chatty.
Chatty may not be the right word. The term I like best for now is wala'au - a Hawaiian term that roughly translates to "talk story". Dad would talk story at his stops. Sharing a joke or something small that happened in his day. Asking someone he had met before abouttheir family or hobby. Gently giving someone a hard time for a fumble they made. Dad was great at talk story, and I came t realize, this made him a great connector.
Most of the business that my Dad had was due to his talk story between hours in the truck. As a young kid, I hadn't considered where work came from, but as I struck out on my own independent career in my 20's, I realized that Dad's habits involved some great skills I could adopt.
What did my Dad do? Part of it was related to being an introvert. Part of it was just the power of small talk.
First thing was that Dad listened. He was a quiet sounding board for people, because he didn't feel compelled to chime in all the time. Listening is a powerful way to make people feel valued.
Secondly, Dad listened to, and talked about, small things. While people often deride small talk, it is an essential part of getting to know people. Small talk may be about the weather, but it is also about who we are. Our small talk exposes our true selves - our small desires, our little annoyances. In fact, current research suggests that small talk makes us feel a little more like we belong, and just a little better in general.
So chat about the weather. Ask about your coworker's kids's recital. Discuss small things and most importantly, listen about small things. Your connections will grow slowly and surely, and you will have a better day for it.