Earlier this week I was walking through the middle of campus with a scowl on my face. Not an I’m-in-a-bad-mood scowl, but a zoned-out/mind-is-elsewhere glare off into the distance. In fact, my eyes must have been cast downward because, in my peripheral vision, I see a man jogging toward me. He was clearly on a mission to get somewhere. As he approached, probably 10 feet from me, I looked up suddenly and made eye contact.
“Great hair!” he said with a big grin. I didn’t even have time to respond, but smiled quickly in acknowledgement of the compliment.
In that moment it struck me that as that man jogged toward me, I likely did not look very welcoming or approachable. And that moment was identical to millions of moments in my life. Except, now I have purple hair. So that man, the woman at the bank, the hygienist at the dentist’s office, the fellow concert-goer, my barista at Starbucks… interact with me and seem to remember me much differently than when I had plain brown hair. There’s a distinct lack of anonymity.
So, sure, purple hair is an obvious flashpoint/conversation starter/set-yourself-apart kind of thing. But truly, it’s not for everyone. So how can you set yourself apart in your day-to-day life? I’m not talking about in a physical sense… let’s use purple hair as a metaphor, shall we?
Be approachable – Be conscientious of your body language, facial expressions and demeanor. No, you shouldn’t care what everyone thinks about you, that’s not the point. But if you non-verbal says, “I’m approachable,” you may be surprised at who you’ll meet or what conversations you might strike up.
Take interest in people – Be genuine, though. Don’t be obnoxious (there’s a certain coffee stand chain in Oregon that rhymes with Hutch Druthers that has the most obnoxious baristas who want to chatter non-stop and ask way too many questions about what you’re doing… don’t do that).
Smile & make eye-contact – I get stopped on the street (literally) and complimented on my purple noggin. No, I’m not always in the mood to smile and say “thank you.” But I do it anyway. People take a risk when they talk to a stranger – even if it’s to pay a compliment. The least you can do is show respect by acknowledging with a genuine response. Or if you’re the one taking a risk, then do so with a smile and eye contact. You’ll find both are usually reciprocated. And if they aren’t, it’s probably not about you.
People don’t always remember what you said, but they always remember how you made them feel.
Don’t take yourself too seriously – I have purple hair for crying out loud. Have fun, and the rest will follow.
I’d love to hear what you think.