It’s fair to understand a stranger whose response to you appears cold. This sort of understanding is even more so, if she or he knows little or nothing about you that should make her/him to be more responsive. It’s natural for people to try to be careful. And everyone tries to be.
Unless we make ourselves known to an individual, it will be difficult for the individual to cooperate with us when we seek such cooperation. And to have another person’s cooperation, we need to make ourselves likeable. No one will easily cooperate with another individual she or he doesn’t like.
How we can make other people appreciate what we are and be willing to support what we want to accomplish, forms the central subject of this discussion.
During a recent call with my undergraduate younger sister, I told her “…You shouldn’t just think that everyone out there exists to do you a favour without your input. You must understand that you have what it takes to be nice; show solidarity; and treat others kindly which will make it easier to have their support, when required…”.
Whether we’re dealing with physical persons or with strangers we meet online, there are things we can do to build rapport. One of such is to show solidarity if we find what they are doing interesting. And the benefits of lending one’s voice to issues that matter to those one seek to work with and that of offering useful suggestions to those that may find it helpful, cannot be overemphasized. Doing so goes to show who an individual is, and what he/she can do.
It’s unhelpful to assume that people you are meeting for the first time are going to figure out who you are or what you can do on their own by looking at you. No. “We’re not defined by who we are inside but by what we do”. Physical appearance may give a clue. But such clues can’t be as loud as the impression made by spoken words or deeds. You need to make who you are to be obvious. You need to make those whom you seek to support you or cooperate with you to understand what you can do. It is worth repeating that no assumed clue can speak louder than the actual deeds done to show what you’ve got or what you can do.
Sometime ago, there were five persons including myself who were sent to assist an institution (JSS Gagarawa), as social workers for a defined period. We resumed our duties and things were moving on fine. Our relationship with the staff was good. Over time, I approach the director of the organization to discuss some plans I had come up with, which I felt will very much make things better in the organization, if carried out. While sitted with Mr Nasiru Yahuza, the director of the institution, I first carefully asked a few important questions, that I felt answers to them will help me understand how his organization views doing necessary works that are outside of one’s routine assignment. It surprised me that while answering my questions, he brought out a file from his cabinet and showed me a list of individuals that have, in the past, carried out projects, outside of their normal roles, that made things better in the institution. It surprised me because nobody has said such a thing to our team.
Nobody even demanded that we do anything outside of our normal duties. What can one sensibly say was the reason nobody in the organization discussed such things with us? Well, it suffice to say that from that day, the director, I and other stakeholders were able to fix the gap identified in my proposal within six months. That singular extra effort, earned me an important friendship with him. That friendship is still active till date. That was not all.
One of those days, prior to the end of our assignment in the organization, he called me and asked if I was available for outing, I told him I was available. He arranged and had me introduced to their community head and some other important personalities in their locale. Honestly, during one of those visits, I even felt I was being given far more treat that was due me for the good job the other stakeholders and I did. Fast forward to when I was required to provide recommendations from three referees, I naturally requested Mr Yahuza to be one of them. When I told him what I needed, he said “When do you need it K.K”, I provided the date, “Send in the full address of the recipient” he added. That was all that was discussed on that subject. His recommendation was sent to where it was destined to go and I got a copy from him through email.
The point being made is that, we don’t have to assume other people know what we can do without them being made to see it by us. We have to let them know who we are and what we can do.
This is especially important for young people who are in need of assistance to start their career journey. The social media has helped us to potentially become so closer to each other from any part of the world, that we can even get professional support from someone we have never seen before, except that we happened to connect with them through the help of the internet.
In this regard, simple things like following (online) someone whose position and interests can be of help to you, showing solidarity with what they do (especially if that interest you), lending your voice where it will be useful or finding courage to speak on subjects you care about…, can help build a sort of closeness with the individuals you seek to have their attention. And that’s not a hard way to go about recommending yourself to those whose support will matter to you. That would have helped you, over time, to prepare the ground for you to ultimately Introduce yourself formally and make your request without sounding awkward.