Saturday, October 26, 2013

Alpacas as Icer Breakers

Being an introvert has been a challenge when it comes to being in the public and meeting new people.  Since owning alpacas, it has become way easier to strike up conversations with new introductions.  When I worked as an engineer, I noticed after many years of this happening, that when I first met someone, as soon as I was asked what I did for a living and I responded I was an engineer, the response was most often, "That's nice,"or, "That's interesting."  They'd smile, turn and walk away.  At best, I'd get asked what kind of engineer and then they'd walk away.  I told my mom what I experienced when I met new folks.  She didn't quite believe me.  Then one time we went to some social function of hers.  She introduced me to one of her friends.  Her friend asked me if I was the daughter that was a teacher.  I said no, I was the daughter that was an engineer.  She did the standard reply of that is so interesting, turned and walked away.  My mom waited a few moments and whispered to me, "they really do walk away when you tell them you're an engineer!"  I replied, "I told you so!"  A part of me took my rejection sort of personally.  I figured that I was either very uninteresting or people didn't like me.  But I knew I was pretty nice so it didn't quite jive that folks would just walk away like that.  Then I realized engineering was somewhat intimidating to folks.  They just didn't know what it was beyond knowing there were different kinds.  They couldn't relate to it and instead of being curious, they just walked away.  However, for someone who is rather shy to begin with, and during an age when you should be learning better social skills in dealing with meeting new people, I wasn't given a good chance to practice.  Once someone turned and walked away, I certainly didn't pursue them and say, "Hey wait, I'm not done talking!"  Ha!  No, instead I went right into my wallflower mode and went invisible.

I went back to school and earned my Master's degree in Counseling and thought, well that should be less intimidating to folks.  That wasn't why I went into counseling but having gone to some social functions and still getting the walk away after saying I'm an engineer, I figured I'd try saying I was a counselor instead.  I have a new career I can use that people won't walk away from me.  However, what happened was one of two things.  I either got people now telling me all their problems and wanting a free counseling session or I'd get the exact same response as when I told folks I was an engineer.  That puzzled me until I realized that they thought I was probably psychoanalyzing them which of course I wasn't.  Strike 2 on having a career that was a good conversation starter.

Then I got alpacas.   Not long after I got my first alpacas, I was invited to a rather large social event for some dear friends.  They were having a formal dinner party at a hotel to celebrate their anniversary.  We had assigned seating and the table I was at, I slightly new one couple but the rest of the table were people I had never met before.  I saw that and my heart sunk a bit as it felt like it could be a long night of me sitting there working very hard to have conversation with strangers.  I really stink at chit chat.  It wasn't long after we were all seated, the dreaded question came up of what I did for a living.  I wasn't doing engineering anymore and I wasn't counseling either. Well, they couldn't get up and walk away so I said I breed alpacas.  I got some laughs and exclamations of, "Really!"  Then came one question after another.  They were so interested and intrigued by it all.  I answered all the questions and shared fun anecdotes.  Our table laughed more and we all had the best time.  I later found out that many shared with our hosts days following the party how much they enjoyed our table and were so entertained by the alpaca stories. 

Having alpacas has definitely made it so much easier to strike up conversations with people.  Moving to Oregon has helped too since it is such a friendly state.  You go into a store and wait in line and people talk to you.  Thanks to alpacas, I'm finally getting a little better at that skill of that introductory conversation.  It is another alpaca oxymoron that such a shy and skittish animal makes the best ice breaker!

Alpacas Have Helping Me With Speaking to Public
Now that I'm an author of a new book, Alpacas Don't Do That, I am learning a lot about public speaking and so enjoying when folks come up and talk to me about what stories have resonated with them.  If you have a favorite story to share of your own of your experience with alpacas that have taught you a life lesson, I want to hear it!  Write to me at

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