Sometimes, I message other creators out of the blue. Maybe I’ve watched their Youtube channel for a while or just stumbled across their blog and ended up reading six posts in a row. My emails to those people usually go like this:
“Heyo! I’m Nik, a writer from Germany. Just found your blog and wanted to say hi. I loved the story about your grandma’s weirdly delicious recipes. It reminded me of my grandma’s odd but tasty meals. She has one where she stuffs a chicken with knödel and then you eat it with apple mousse. Sounds wrong, but works. Anyway, just happy I found your work. Thank you for doing it. Keep at it!”
It’s the equivalent of someone you’re not entirely sure you even know coming at you on the street with open arms, yelling: “There you are! SO nice to finally meet you!” The initial hug might be awkward, but usually, if you realize the person’s genuine, you might strike up a meaningful connection.
Most people, however, are not like that. Not in their private life and especially not in business. I think that’s sad. I don’t want to walk on egg shells wherever I go. I want to be myself everywhere, not just at home.
If a potential friend, business partner, or peer creative thinks me talking about my grandma’s stuffing in my first email is a dealbreaker, then, actually, we both win: They don’t have to reply, and I don’t have to play some weird social game to try and get them to like me. We can either meet at a similar level of trust and open-mindedness or not at all.
Sometimes, people will send reserved, nondescript answers to my emails. “Thank you! It’s always nice to hear from fans.” Actually, it’s always sad when a fan showed the courage to reach out to you, and then you lumped them in with 10,000 other people and showed them that’s what you’re doing. On the other hand, I get it. People are busy. “Better to answer than not answer at all,” they might think. We’ve all gotten burned too, so it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to walk around like an open book.
The best connections often emerge when those people come around later. “When we first met, I thought you were a weirdo, but then I realized: This guy’s legit!” To the person who initially reached out, that’s both satisfying and heartwarming. They handed you a big trust advance, and though you were skeptical, you eventually returned the favor.
There’s a lesson in here about how to react when a big teddy bear stumbles into your life and knocks you over. You can catch them in your arms, take a careful step back, or turn around and run away. It takes courage to reciprocate an awkward hug, but when in doubt, a somber handshake at least keeps all doors into the future open.
The biggest takeaway, however, is not about what you do when someone super-authentic appears in your life. It’s about how you should walk down the street. Reservations are for restaurants. You can’t go through life holding back 50% all the time. The only thing that guarantees is regret.
Be the open book that gets others to break out of their shell. If we all overshare a little, being more honest will become the new norm. See the opportunity in every genuine interaction rather than the risk of exposing one of your quirks. We’re all special in our own ways, and life is about discovering those mutual idiosyncrasies, not hiding them.
The next time someone strikes you — with their work, their charm, or their curiosity — tell them exactly why you felt connected. It may not be the email they wanted, but beyond the chance of making a new friend, it might be the very message they need.