After talking to thousands of people at Comic Con earlier this month I realized many people do something completely crazy.
Over and over again, people would come up to my booth, behold the vintage toys, tell me an extended narrative about their life and then . . . drift away.
Sometimes people would spend a good ten to fifteen minutes telling me stories about their experiences in the Military, the personality quirks of their children, strange childhood memories and their employment history. It would seem like we were connecting in some small way, then they would be off to something else and I would never see them again.
I would not have noticed or contemplated the utter strangeness of this behavior if it hadn’t happened more than a hundred times over three days. I had been doing things like this my whole life, chatting and running off, but I never stopped to ask, “Why do people do this? Isn’t it a profound waste of time?”
I mean, if I am never going to see you again why would you waste time telling me about your cocker spaniels and morning walk around the international peace gardens? Why not move on and save your chatter energy for someone else?
1. People chatter because they have a difficult time rejecting the sale. The other day I was at the mall and spotted a green dress in the window. I wanted to find out how much it was. I entered the small store and saw that it was three times what I would be willing to pay. No big deal, I could just walk out, right?
Nope! The girl who worked there had said hello to me and I felt it would be rude to just spin around and leave. I didn’t want her to think I was a cheapskate (I am!). I didn’t want her to get offended. So I ended up chatting with her for much longer than I wanted to before (blessedly) another customer had a question and I was able to duck out.
In essence, the chatter says, “I will make conversation with you, be nice and kindly. I will give you stories and smiles. I won’t, however, buy anything from you. In this way, I have given you something and I am not rude.”
2. People have a desperate need to be heard.
On the whole, people want you to know about them. If you are ever stuck in conversation with someone new, all you have to do is ask endless streams of questions about themselves and they will have a great time conversing with you and will remember you fondly. This is one of the golden rules in Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friend And Influence People in section two titled “Become genuinely interested in other people.” This deep need to be known is so strong that others will make themselves known to complete strangers, even if there is no promise for future friendship.
The wonderful thing about this chatter exchange is that it is mutually beneficial. Even if they don’t drop a dime on your product, they are sharing a gold mine of information about numerous topics. You could learn about a great dive hidden downtown. You could learn about how F-16 engines work. You could learn (as I did) about the strange subculture phenomenon of Furries. Furthermore, you are learning more about your customer and that information begins to show up in patterns.
Chatter is a wonderful thing!
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