How To Break The Ice With Anyone You Meet (A Model's Guide)

As a model, I’m frequently in the position of meeting new people.

For example, I often travel to foreign places to shoot with crews that I haven’t met yet. And to make the situation more complicated, the crew usually speaks a different first language than I do. I’ve found it quite unfulfilling to travel and not try to communicate with my crew. But because in the past I was afraid to put forth the energy to connect with the people around me, I wasn’t really trying.

Boy did I learn a great lesson when I took a risk and answered my German client’s kind gesture of, “Danke schön" with, “auf Wiedersehen!” If you know any German, you’re laughing now: my client had said, “Thank you!” and I had responded, “Goodbye!”

As I waited for the crew to stop laughing, they told me what I said — and I panicked! And kept panicking until … they hugged me and told me how much they loved that I was trying to speak their language! After I showed them that I was interested in communicating and connecting with them, they opened up and I learned so many amazing things about the crew and that we have so much in common — like that the photographer was a vegan and she could help me order the best lunch! (Score!)

Over time, I’ve realized that I often wasn’t introducing myself because I was afraid to fail. As soon as I realized that this, I quickly addressed my fear and faced it head on. I even swam with sharks in the Bahamas! By dumping my ego and finally diving into the world around me, I’ve realized that as soon as I took the first step of making the introduction, without overthinking it, I felt empowered and my fear of not being good enough, or failing, began to evaporate. After I vaporized my fear, I was thrilled at the thought of how many amazing people are out there that I have yet to meet!

One great and authentic connection is all it takes, and the possibilities are limitless: your future husband, a business connection to help you land your dream job, someone enlightening that brings you peace when you need it most. Then again, nothing earthshaking might come from your introduction. Maybe they look up into your eyes for a brief second, or they say, “Thanks,” for holding the door open for them. You’ve still left a powerful impression with them. Next time they see you, they’ll remember that you were the person that went out of their way to be kind. And I can promise, nothing bad ever happens when you open your heart and reach out your hand to someone that you’d like to know.

Imagine yourself standing on a busy city street and knowing everyone that walks by on a personal level. Think about all of that opportunity walking around: publishers, yoga gurus, fashion icons, business tycoons — maybe someone that could even have the potential to become your best friend.

Here are three ways to dare yourself into making new connections by breaking the ice with people you see every day:

Dare one: start a conversation every time you ride the elevator (at least for one day).

A line I like to use a lot in the elevator is, “I’m so sorry that I have not introduced myself yet, I’m Emily — the one with the crazy dog with big ears.” Not only did I introduce myself, I gave them a memory cue to remember my name the next time they see my crazy dog with big ears. I’ve also made them feel comfortable by introducing myself in a nonthreatening way.

If you ride the elevator at work, give someone a compliment and follow up with a way that they can remember you. For example, I have said before, “I love your outfit! Do you mind if I take a picture to remember the styling?” Once you buy yourself a moment to take a picture of the shoes or outfit, use your time wisely to stick out your hand and give your best introduction. “I can’t believe I forgot to introduce myself, and I’m taking a picture of your outfit! I’m Emily — I might Instagram the outfit photo, would that be OK with you? My handle is @MyKindofLife_Em.” At this point, I’ve complimented my new friend, I’ve taken a picture to remember her and the cute outfit, and she now has my Instagram handle, where she can find out more about what I do and who I am if she’s still curious after my introduction.

You never know who you could be riding up and down the elevators with, and a simple introduction is free and extremely thoughtful. You never know, a simple introduction could be just the remedy to brighten someone else’s day.

Dare two: reintroduce yourself with confidence and humility.

Have you been friendly with someone you have already met and still, you can’t remember his or her name or what they do? Just because you don’t remember their name or hobbies does not mean that they didn’t make a profound enough introduction, it simply means you need to reintroduce yourself to refresh your memory.

An easy way to reintroduce yourself to someone is to be with a friend that you know well, and introduce them to each other. The key is not just finding out your new friend’s name, but also learning something about them, so that you have the chance to connect. What I like to say is, “Hi! This is my husband Matt. You’ve probably seen him before he’s always running around this building because his office is on the second floor. And I’m sorry but for the life of me, your name has escaped my mind!” Once they tell me their name, I usually follow up with, “I’d love to grab coffee sometime so we’d finally have the chance to meet.” Exchange numbers and off you go! Make sure to follow up with a text, so that you can Facebook each other and sniff out your common interests.

Once I used a similar conversation with a fun looking girl that my husband and I would often see at Starbucks in the morning editing photos. We were friendly but had never hung out before. I finally reintroduced myself, and with humility, told her that her name had escaped me but I knew that she was an excellent photographer because I would see her work on her computer screen when I was waiting for my coffee. I asked her if I could see some more of her work, to show her that I was genuinely interested in connecting, which I was. Low and behold, her photos were absolutely stunning. In fact, she was one of the top advertising photographers in Miami. A few coffees and lunches later, I hired her to shoot the annual campaign for my blog, My Kind of Life, and I could not be happier with the way the pictures turned out.

Odds are, when you reintroduce yourself, your acquaintance is glad that you did — they weren’t 100% sure of your name or hobbies either. Now that you broke the ice, you’ve built a new relationship and made the dynamic between you two much more friendly.

Dare three: introduce yourself and thank someone that has helped you.

Too often do we run out of the gym to beat rush hour traffic, and we forget to say a genuine, “Thank you,” to the class instructor that gave us the perfect motivational push to get through our tough workout. Take one minute to say thank you, introduce yourself, and let them know what you really liked about the class. The last time I introduced myself to my spin instructor, he told me about a marathon he was running to raise money for a very rare, terminal disease that his mother died from. By introducing myself, and giving us a few beats to connect on a more personal level, I learned that a small donation would help him achieve his fundraising goals, so I reached in my pocket and helped out a new friend. If you can genuinely help someone with no strings attached, they will remember you, forever.

The power of a great introduction is a skill set that we can refine to open ourselves up to incredible opportunities and networks. How have you found success in introducing yourself?

Photo by Mary Beth Koeth

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