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Give people an 'A' and step into a world of possibilities

Photo courtesy of *zara

I’m just back from one of those ”thanks for doing business with us" type drinks events.

I went cos

  1. I like the person who invited me.
  2. Some interesting folks were likely to be there.
  3. I love meeting new people, listening, learning, finding stories and ideas for my work, and most importantly,
  4. having a fresh audience for my own adventure tales!

So I chatted to people I known and like. We had a drink and a couple of funny looking nibbles. Very enjoyable. So far so good.

Then they went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid like “have you met so and so?”...then we were introduced.

Your gut reaction tells you the way to go.

Now for most of us, there are usually two possibilities. Which one we go with is determined almost instantaneously. Our gut tells us we like the person and we’re gonna try and have a worthwhile conversation. Or, we decide not to bother, and do our best to escape.

There’s a third option called “possibility thinking”.

But what if we make one specific decision before we even get in the building?

What if we decide to give everyone an “A” for being a top person BEFORE we even meet them? What if we chose to believe, no matter how our gut reacted on the first introduction, that on these sorts of occasions, everyone is automatically on our “A-list”? That way, when we’re introduced, we’re pre-programmed to look for the best.

What might happen? Could this transform our interaction with people? Might we give ourselves a better shot at uncovering something interesting that we may otherwise miss?

This is practical stuff. No matter what the outcome, everyone will get more out of the interaction if we choose a positive mindset to begin with.

I got this from a Zander.

The idea of giving people an “A” came from the brilliantly inspirational Benjamin Zander. He’s the conductor and teacher who co-wrote a book called “The Art of Possibility". He uses the concept to coax his music students into believing better things of themselves. I see no reason why it shouldn’t work in all settings.

It boils down to expecting good things from people and circumstances. Such expectations set the tone for more positive outcomes than if we leave things to chance.
It means, for our example, ignoring initial “gut” reactions about whether we want to make an effort with people, and making an effort anyway.

But don’t spend too much time waiting for your cat to bark!

Giving people an “A” really can pay big dividends. It has worked for me. If I don’t feel an immediate connection, I carry on a bit longer. Taking time to ask a few more questions, to listen a bit more, to try and find mutually interesting stuff. It’s worth the time.

The thing is, we also have to work out when its time to stop. We have to accept that it might not happen. Some people may never give us what we crave from human interaction.

Maybe that cat can never bark.

But lets still be thankful.

There are billions of people in the world. We’ll each meet thousands in a lifetime.
By starting with an ”A”, its very likely there’ll be times we push through and uncover people gems that will make us, and them, all the richer.

T'would be lovely to know if you found this points helpful, and if you have particular things that help you benefit from or help the people you meet, despite not feeling an immediate warmth or attraction.  Hope to see you in the comments.

Your comments:

Barrington says:
07/03/2010 20:49:45

I've been called gullible. I've been called naive. I've even been called stupid for wanting to think the best of people. Unless you allow people the opportunity to shine from the first time you meet them you're always going to shackle them to the prospect of failure. Sure, I've been let down a few times but it doesn't stop me from wanting everyone I meet to be an "A". It occurs to me, as I'm writing this, that this has allowed me to get on so well with my present job (lecturer) as I am never put off by first impressions - even when my 'students' were behind bars! As a lecturer rather than teacher, I see the only bit of 'teaching' is to get my students to realise that they have the ability to succeed. Everyone should be blessed with the propensity to be good and do good. If you start from this premis more people will feel they can be "A"s. Keep it up, Ian. You're talking a lot of sense and you obviously care.
eriean says:
31/01/2010 09:00:33

great artical it gave me solution to myproblem
mariaisabel says:
26/09/2009 23:43:57

Great article, Ian. I'll try to use this approach in my life too.
Mags says:
09/09/2009 22:16:14

Like you I love listening, learning, finding ideas, debating and meeting new people. giving people an 'A' is a really positive approach and I will use it. Being 'nuts' sounds fine to me when it has great results! I also find that Social Networking like Twitter can break through some of the barriers.
fredbrill says:
15/08/2009 22:41:31

I have also read Benjamin Zander's book - and use a video of Zander applying these principles and positive reinforcement with his orchestra members. The most common reation to the video in my experience has been as follows: At first - you think this guy is nuts. Then - you're certain he's nuts. Then you see the appreciation and adoration he earns from these pupils - and you realize this nut is a genious. Then you try to figure out for the next week how you can apply his genius without becoming a nut. Then you become a nut. I couldn't agree more about the power of a positive approach to new people. My own approach is to look past the immediate impression - because rarely are people who they project to be. They are usually better. And each person has at least redeeming quality or reason for your respect - unless of course your a guard on death row of a texas prison. And that's only my speculation. Great stuff.


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  • Ian AspinLocation: Lancaster Lake District, UK
  • Bio: I’m passionate about my work:TV journalist, producer, presenter, business ideas person. I care about: family, friends, helping people, finding meaning, running