Friday, September 07, 2007

Bad News for Nerds

Hello, my name is Greg and I'm a nerd.

I've always had a pretty technical mindset and have, until recent years, felt more comfortable programming a computer than talking with fellow human beings. Looking around, I know there are many out there like me.

Then I started my business.

I know there are many other technical folks who dream of one day throwing off the yoke of oppression and starting their own business. I am here to tell you that it is possible, but there is one caveat.

You have to learn to like being around, talking to, and working with other people.

Unless you've come up with a way of making money by purchasing your own product, here's a list of behaviors you'll want to pick up:

  • Making friends -- All things being equal, people buy from friends. In fact, things don't even have to be all that equal.
  • Leaving your desk -- If you don't meet anyone, you can't make friends with them.
  • Making small talk -- Just because it's called "small" talk, doesn't mean it is of little importance. This is the technique that starts a real conversation. It also doesn't have to be meaningless drivel about the weather.
  • Having a conversation -- This is an extension of the "small talk" skill. Think of small talk as the spark and conversation as the campfire. Conversation is when you go beyond the surface and find out about the person who will someday be your friend.
  • Asking questions -- Questions perform two tasks here. First (and foremost) you get to find out more about the other person. Second, it gets them to ask about you. Any question you ask will very likely be reflected back to you. So, be prepared with an answer.
  • Listening, not talking -- We nerds often want to feel like experts on everything and we want other people to recognize our expertise. That's all well and good, but save it for the next time you are arguing with your friends over who's a better starship captain, Kirk or Picard. Who knows? By asking questions and letting the other person talk, you might find that they, too, share your enthusiasm for "Battlestar Galactica".
  • Being approachable -- This is more than just bathing on a daily basis -- although that's a good idea, too. Work on your confident smile, your firm (but not crushing) handshake, and your ability to look someone else in the eye (without the crazy psycho stare that eventually leads to a restraining order).
  • Taking the first step -- Nerds tend to sit back and wait for others to come to us. Guess what? That behavior will lead to a very lonely life. Look for people to talk with (not "talk to"). Who knows? That person who's hanging back from the crowd might well be a fellow nerd.
Practicing these behaviors can be a little scary at first, but if you persist, one day you will suddenly discover that you are actually having a good time with other people!

And that's the first step to success.

So, what behaviors would you recommend to a fellow nerd who's aiming for success?


Jacki Hollywood Brown said...

After spending my entire high school career lunch hours at the "nerd" table....I have come to some conclusions about nerds. They are, for the most part, pretty cool people who are "fashion impaired" (I can say that because I still have clothes from that era, 198*)

If a nerd wants to be successful, then a nerd really should hire a fashion consultant or at least seek out a friend with good taste (preferably not another nerd) to help with shopping for clothes. You don't have to dress like a rock star, just not like Herb Tarleck!

Anonymous said...

I can't do any of those things.