The Conversation Guy

musings from a guy who likes to work any crowd

A Greek Restaurant and a Matchmaker…

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Taverna CretekouSo, a friend of mine started the Ah-Yeah Restauranting Club, which brings different people together to go to a different restaurant once a month where people sit next to a new person or someone they don’t know well. About 15 of us met this past Friday at Taverna Cretekou, a Greek restaurant in Old town Alexandria, VA. I had a lamb kabob which was very good, but I didn’t eat any of the appetizers because I was too busy talking and didn’t get to eat any before they took them away :).

At first, I tried to sit next to the one person in the group I hadn’t met yet, but I ended up sitting next to someone I know, but don’t talk to that often… And it proved to be an interesting conversation. So, little did I know, she currently works as a professional “matchmaker” for Premier Match (www.premiermatchmaking.com), which to be honest, I was surprised by, and I was curious to find out what it was – after all, I am still single 🙂 – and why she worked for them. I saw the opportunity for a fun conversation, because I was able to bluntly ask her a lot of questions. As someone who is fascinated with different human interactions, I was curious to dive into this topic, admitting that I always thought of dating services as artificial. It is definitely more advanced than typical dating websites. It’s actually mostly offline. So, the way it works is someone starts with a brief phone interview and then a 3 hour long in-person interview. If they agree to take you on as client, it is a fairly high fee, but it’s a one-time cost, and they’ll work with you until you find the right relationship. They work primarily with busy professionals in New York, Washington, and Philadelphia. And – interestingly enough – they refund your money if you get married to someone you met through Premier Match. I asked her a lot of questions as a friend, like how do you know that someone is who they say they are since people would try to put their best foot forward in the beginning. She said they do extensive background checks and interviews and stay involved in the process, talking to each person after dates to get feedback and coach them along the way. She said it’s designed so that each participant will learn a lot about themselves through the process because they will share feedback from those you meet with on what they did and didn’t like about you – a 360 degree feedback loop.

In the beginning interviews, they ask about your goals, personality, and character to try to get to know you and see if you’re someone they would trust. She said they take on a personal approach and that she and the owner wouldn’t take on a client they wouldn’t be comfortable with dating their sister (or brother). So, we chatted more about different aspects about it. But one question I had was that “shouldn’t folks just meet people along the way while doing things that are important to them?” Her response was that some people are so busy and focused that they don’t have time to meet a lot of people to find ones that they would be interested in getting to know more. That is why they would use their service, which comprehensively tries to get to know each person in order to match them with people they would be interested in. They said they try to set up each meeting in a way that they can ensure a high chance of at least an enjoyable time – even if it doesn’t result in a relationship. I will say that their organization sounds different than any other that I’ve heard about – and I was impressed when they said if they have people that are not meeting their expectations or if they sense they have unhealthy motives, they’ll decline to continue working with them and refund their money. Anyway, despite being kind of turned off to dating services, I wanted to give her an opportunity to respond to all my skeptical questions and try to understand some other perspectives, because that’s what conversations are all about. It’s always interesting when you’re open to different conversations about anything… After that conversation concluded and I had eaten my kabob, I did get to make to the end of the table and still have a good chat with the guy I hadn’t met before – he’s a writer from New York and we had a good discussion about life, politics and food and exchanged information to stay in touch.

If you’re in the DC area and want to join us at the next Ah-Yeah Restauranting club dinner, email me at theconversationguy@gmail.com. And, as always, feel free to join in the conversation by commenting or shooting me an email.

Until next time,
– The Conversation Guy

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Written by theconversationguy

October 28, 2009 at 12:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

De-Fragmenting Life

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Have you ever noticed that many of us create various separate lives for ourselves? Well, I am realizing that I am too disorganized to do that effectively…

I had a coffee chat downtown with my friend Caleb this morning to catch up and brainstorm about my new blog because he also loves connecting with people. We chatted about our mutual desire to bridge the different areas of our lives. Our chat gave me better clarity of what I want to accomplish through this blog. As readers, you will probably not agree with everything I believe – from my faith, to political views, to my taste in coffee. But, I don’t want to hide any of that. I want to practice being open with different people about all of the above, while also learning more about others’ beliefs. I’ve always been frustrated that people are often not very real about who they are. I think we often don’t share certain things about our lives because we are afraid they may be different from someone else’s, but I’m realizing that is what makes life dynamic. I want to learn how to better communicate all aspects of my life, while always being open to learn from others.

For instance, I am a Christian, I play the guitar, I am fairly extroverted and love interacting with all types of people, and I work in the conservative think-tank / policy world in D.C. Yet my interests far exceed policy and politics. And I do not want to only talk to folks who believe everything I do – there’s no fun (or learning) in that. I want to make sure I am always honest about who I am in all areas of my life, while constantly remaining open to be challenged by the beliefs and experiences of others.

To thank Caleb for his inspiration, I want to pass on information on a project he is working on. He’s a writer and film maker and he is working with the U.S. State Department on a worldwide video contest on “What is Democracy?” Check it out – http://www.videochallenge.america.gov/

Join the conversation – please post comments and/or email theconversationguy@gmail.com with stories or thoughts you would like me to write about.

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October 22, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Cafe Chats

Three Girls and a Salsa Club

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Needless to say, I had a great seat at dinner :)

Needless to say, I had a great seat at dinner 🙂

So, I’m a little late at posting this… last Friday night, I went to a surprise birthday party (Happy Birthday again, Anthony). It was at Havanna Village in Adams Morgan (NW DC) – dinner & salsa dancing was on the agenda. My friend, Anthony works in the policy/political field (and I do as well), and that is true for many of Anthony’s other friends there. But to be completely honest, while I can talk about politics, I enjoy talking about other random things a well – like just learning stuff about people. I chatted with someone who was an Ear, Nose, Throat Doctor who explained how sinus surgery works (makes me thankful that I haven’t had to have it). Anyway, when it came to sitting down, I told Anthony’s girlfriend, Alex, who hosted the party (the one with her head above the other three in the top left photo), that I wanted to sit next to people I didn’t know… so she sat me with her three close friends from law school (top left – thanks, Alex!), which, made me the bridge between the ladies and the guys (in photo below). And I was already good friends with three of the guys, so according to my goal of talking to mostly new people… looks like I was going to talk with the ladies 🙂 … Erin (bottom left – from up state New York), Amanda (bottom middle – from New Jersey), and Rachael (bottom right – from Newfoundland, Canada). Alex had already introduced me to Erin, so I was able to chat with her, but then a minute or so after the others got there, I introduced myself and we all began chatting.

My challenge was that they were all close friends – and, well I (at first) was a total stranger (and a guy – trying to join an all girl conversation)…but that’s where weaving into the conversation comes… at one point, I asked them for a random fact about their life… everything from Amanda being a tom-boy when she was young to Rachael playing hockey with the guys when she was a kid, to me admitting that my older twin sisters put me in a dress when I a kid (telling embarrassing or funny stories always helps people connect).

I talked to the guys some too...

I talked to the guys some too...

Then I asked them about siblings… these are safe questions to just ask about people that help you begin to feel like friends over a chat… And, then when they would want to talk about something they all knew about (like at law school), they would bring me in the conversation b/c I acted (and was) interested… and it was as if we were already friends… (thank you ladies for letting me join the chat). Then Rachael came with me to walk down the street to pick up an ice cream cake (which I located on my iPhone) so we could come back and surprise Anthony. It’s fun to just connect with people for the sake of getting to know new folks.

At the end of dinner, a couple other friends arrived and some of the original crowd headed out, including Erin, Rachael, and Amanda… but the rest of us headed up to the second floor for salsa dancing… Anthony and Alex definitely owned the dance floor… On a side note, it’s kind of unfair that girls can just stand there and good dancers will ask to dance with them, but whenever I try to go up to a girl I don’t know to ask them to dance, they give me a funny look (or their boyfriend gives me a funny look)…I’ll be sure to write a post when I get over this hurdle. But, thankfully, I had my new friends Jeremy (PhD Candidate in Applied Economics) and Joe (Investment Banker) to talk to who were also there for Anthony’s party (and the only two guys who stuck around for salsa dancing…  and Investment Banker). And, Jess had a good dancer who kept asking her to dance (I really thought he was going to throw her on the floor, but he caught her every time :)). Dancing with friends is great (thanks for coming, Nicole and Jess!)… then a couple of us went to third floor where they playing more hip-hop style music… so I got inspired to break dance, and a huge circle of people gathered around me cheering. But, somewhere between the hand stand, jazz split, etc…, I hurt my ankle (still a little sore, but feeling better) – maybe that wasn’t the best decision. But, it did result in chatting with strangers who told me I did a great job (thanks, Rolando)… Anyway, it was a fun evening with people I didn’t know and now do know, as well as folks I was already good friends with… Thanks for having a birthday, Anthony, and thanks, Alex, for hosting a great evening…

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October 20, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

My New Friend, Carl

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Carl and Conversation Guy - 10-19-09

So, after my chiropractor appointment today, I decided I’d stop at the corner of 19th & K Streets NW to have a chat with a guy selling Street Sense, DC’s newspaper for the homeless. I asked him if I gave him a donation to buy the paper if he would talk to me, to which he replied, “I have all day.” He told me more about Street Sense… Homeless people write articles and, in exchange for writing them, they’re given papers to sell (it’s published bi-weekly). Or, you can buy papers for 35 cents each as a distributor and then sell them (suggested donation of $1). It’s designed as an employment opportunity for the homeless. He said when he first started doing it, he was making $100 per day, but now it’s about $40-50 per day. He said he believes in an honest man’s wage, which is why he thinks Street Sense is a good opportunity. I was chatting with him about different things and he commented that government is messed up and that his biggest frustration with government is what they’re not doing for homelessness.  But, instead of just asking the government for a handout, Carl is working… and he said he is studying computer science in school (and jokingly said he was doing it so he would know how to go online and transfer money into his back account from other countries).  But he reassured me he really wouldn’t do that (Don’t worry, Carl, I know you wouldn’t).

When I asked him about the fact that most assume people choose homelessness… he said that’s true for about 40% who just use whatever money they collect to go buy drugs or alcohol and aren’t really trying to get out. But, he reminded me that there are all types of people who are homeless, who are there for different reasons and have to work hard to move forward. But Carl said even after he finishes his school program, he’ll still try to continue to sell Street Sense b/c he likes meeting and talking with people. I have to say, he was a very friendly guy – and surprisingly positive – more than a lot of people I talk to (who make more money than him). We also chatted about our faith and how he gains strength from God to keep trying. Carl, thanks for your passion for life and your inspiration. I’ll check back with Carl in the future and let y’all know how he’s doing.

So, what do y’all think? I have to admit, since I’m asked for money ALL the time when I’m walking through downtown, it’s a habit to say no thanks and just walk by (otherwise, I’d be broke)… And actually, I think that’s why I went to talk to Carl… he didn’t ask… I walked by and he was holding the papers but he wasn’t screaming out “Help the homeless, buy Street Sense” like most do.  But, it’s good to remember they are real people just trying to make the best of a challenging situation. And, sure, there are those who take advantage of the system… but that’s true of business, politics, or almost any system. I just find it amusing how often that, out of habit, we tend to only talk to those in the same category of life as us… and it’s fun to venture out occasionally… Anyway, please post comments and join the conversation. And, if you’re ever at 19th & K NW, stop and say hello to Carl if you see him 🙂

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October 19, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Going to Tunisia

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tunisiaWell, I’m not going to Tunisia, but my new friends I met on the metro this morning are…

So, after I biked to the metro in the rain this morning (after first having my double-shot latte at home), I got on at Ballston to head downtown to work. I looked around the entire metro car that I was in, and out of more than 100 people, not a single person was talking, so I was scanning the car, waiting for my moment. While I naturally go up to people at receptions or networking events, this is a whole new ball game. Then my moment came… The doors opened at the next stop and a couple walked in. I heard them talking about touristy stuff, so I waited for a pause and jumped in, asking if they were visiting DC. They told me they were local and were discussing plans for a trip to Tunisia, where he (Jacques) is from, with a group of friends from their tennis club. I asked him about the political climate in Tunisia and told me they have a strong single party system, but that they have a well educated populated population, providing doctors and teachers to the rest of the African continent. They also said it’s a wonderful place to visit – so I’ll add it to my list of vacation spots.

He asked me where I was from & I told him I live here and am from Western Maryland. He said he asked me that because most people who live here don’t usually talk to people on the metro. So, we chatted a moment about why that is the case. He commented that most people probably just view it as a silent moment to get ready for the day.

I asked what they do for work and Jacques told me he is from Tunisia and is retired and interested in history (he was on his way to the Archives to hear a lecture). His wife Connie works at the World Bank and was on her way to work. They asked where I work, and he said he was surprised to hear that I work at a policy oriented think-tank (it’s amazing how many stereotypes we have for people). When we got to the Farragut West stop, Connie left, saying it was great to meet and talk with me, while Jacques and I continued chatting until I stepped out at the next stop to go to my office. It’s amazing that once you break the ice with total strangers, you can talk to them like total friends. So, I’m interested in continuing this social experiment. Plus, at the end of the conversation, I jokingly quipped, “now, it’s your turn to start a conversation with strangers next time, to keep it going.” So, maybe if I do that each time, I can help start a larger city-wide conversation between people.

It’s definitely an interesting experience, so you should try it sometime and tell me about it by writing to theconversationguy@gmail.com and I’ll quote part of your story on the blog.

Until tomorrow,

– the conversation guy

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October 15, 2009 at 11:12 pm

The First Conversation

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So, today, I did what I often do…had coffee with someone just to chat, catch up, and see if I could maybe learn something. Little did I know it would result in this new blog, and my new identity as the “conversation guy.”

My conversation with Tony Woodlief at an Arlington, VA Starbucks over a Pumpkin Spice Latte (me) and a Hot Chocolate (Tony), included multiple topics such as faith, politics, work, and life. Part of the conversation involved me trying to explain a single thread of what I am passionate about through all areas of my life… and it is you – people that is. Ever since I was a kid, I always loved talking to people, and not just people I know – the cashier at the grocery store, the taxi cab driver, or the random person next to me on the plane. Now, whether it is at work, at church, or at a random networking event… I get energy from interacting with people, and would like to think I occasionally encourage others.

We can learn so much about life by talking to others. So, I am setting out on a journey – to talk to people in various situations, going far beyond the places I currently go, to see what people think…which, may in turn, change the way you and I think about things. I promise that I’ll provide a perspective different than any DC newspaper could – and that I’ll do my best to keep the posts short and interesting.

And if you want to learn more about the hot chocolate drinking Tony Woodlief who helped inspire my new identity, you can check out his blog at http://www.tonywoodlief.com.

If there’s a specific topic or question you would like to hear how different people would respond to, please email theconversationguy@gmail.com.

Please check back often to stay part of the conversation.

– The Conversation Guy

Written by theconversationguy

October 15, 2009 at 12:08 am

Posted in Cafe Chats