I believe that as family, friends, business associates, and as members of the world community, we are called to connect with others. It seems to me the best way to do that is to build “on-ramps” into each other’s lives. Just as there are thousands of on-ramps onto major highways there are unlimited on-ramp opportunities to connect to others.
Each of us has to develop our own style of on-ramp building that matches our personality and interests. I must admit, several of my favorite on-ramp builders seem so simple, almost ridiculously simple; however, I find the simple ones that are rooted in common sense are the ones that are most effective.
I share these not as absolutes, but maybe more like inspiring primers that in some small way will cause us all to be more intentional in building relationships:
- Extend your right hand of friendship. As Bill Hybels says in his book, Just Walk Across the Room, a simple gesture as a handshake can make all the difference. Don’t wait for someone to reach out to you.
- Ask these three questions: Where do you work? What about your family? Where did you grow up? You never know, but just by asking these three simple on-ramp questions, it could be the key to unlocking a valued friendship or contact.
- Write it down and recall. If you’re like me, by the time I’m out the door I’ll forget someone’s name, family members’ names, etc. A quick entry into your cell phone contact list can make a lasting on-ramp with a person the next time you are together and you recall their information.
- Offer to buy a cup of coffee (or beverage). You’ll be amazed at the positive response you’ll get by asking this question, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee and learn a little bit more about you?” A thirty minute coffee get-together can offer lots of on-ramp opportunities. Lunch works, too, but I’ve found an initial thirty minute conversation is perfect for opening up major on-ramps to a person’s main roads of interests.
- Discover common interests. With a little soft prodding it’s not hard to uncover books, sports teams, family activities, hobbies, clubs or organizations that create common on-ramp conversation.
- Ask their opinion. Admit it, we all like to be asked our opinion. I’ve found this not only opens up an on-ramp, but it’s a great way to learn and understand another’s perspective.
- Follow up with a handwritten note. What’s a better way to keep an on-ramp open than to send a handwritten note expressing sincere appreciation and gratitude for their time?
- Create a leave behind gift. Create your own leave behind gift that can yield a future on-ramp. I make my own seasoning “rub” blend, called JW’s Rub, which I often give people on an initial visit. The next time we’re together it becomes an on-ramp of discussion, as they tell me about their grilling experience using my special seasoning mix. With a little creative thinking you can come up with a unique idea that can become your calling card.
- Invite people into your circles. There is no better way to build an on-ramp into someone’s life than an invitation. So often we assume that people are connected to a circle when they’re not. A simple invitation to our home, church, community activities, etc., can be a life changing on-ramp.
- Let me introduce you. These four words can create a double on-ramp. When we introduce someone to someone else we create a doubled opportunity to connect with more than one person. What’s better than that?
- Create an on-ramp activity. Why not create an activity or event where people can build on-ramps? Neighborhood cook-outs, in-home Bible studies, book clubs, dinner clubs, walking or running groups, hosting exchange students, inviting guest speakers to home gatherings; the list goes on and on.
- Show up and help. When we see someone who needs help, we stop and help. No greater on-ramps can be found than helping someone.
- Listen. The best way to build on-ramps is to listen into someone else’s life.
I’m convinced that when we show genuine interest and sincerely build on-ramps to meet people where they are in their life journey, we will not only enrich their lives, but experience the richness of an uncommon life.
What do you say we all build some new on-ramps this week?
Let me hear about your on-ramp building.
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