Mystery Mondays: The Art of “Introducing”

Seems like I am the designated “introducer” in my circle of friends. It doesn’t really mean that I’m necessarily the expert at anything, just that I’m the go-to person when somebody want to try something new. For example, my friend Greg was visiting me from Mesa this past weekend. Greg had never been kayaking (something I love) so I invited him to try it out. (It helps that since ESP Boss bought a new kayak, I can borrow his anytime I want!)

So whenever somebody wants to try kayaking, or tent camping, or geocaching, or metal detecting, I’m their go-to Princess. (Figures, since it’s in the name, right!?)

Greg was an absolute good sport about it all. From helping me load the kayaks the night before, to watching as I assembled the paddles, to letting me help him adjust his life vest. When we were unloading the kayaks from the back of my truck, he told me he was both nervous and excited. I thought that his honesty in the face of being a beginner was fantastic!

Greg learning to kayak.

Ah, being a beginner! When was the last time you tried something new? How did it go?

Here are my tips for anytime you are sharing your “expertise” with somebody who is just trying out something you’ve done for a while:

1. Remember what it was like to be new at it.

The first time I went kayaking, I had NO idea how to paddle without slamming my elbows into the seat. Or how to keep myself mostly dry. Or how to launch. Or get out. Or even which way was “up” on the paddle!

Remember all YOUR frustrations as a beginner. Then gently share your knowledge.

2. Gently share your knowledge.

If you’re anything like me, you want to KNOW but sometimes ASKING can be embarrassing. Especially when the person you’re out with seems to have loads more experience!

When you’re “instructing” somebody in something new, try forming your instructions as suggestions. Like: I found it works better if I put one foot into the kayak and then sit down right away. That way, the newbie gets the advantage of your “been there, done that, feel in” experience without feeling like they’re being lectured.

The caveat to that, of course, is for any must-know safety tips. In that case, lecture away!

3. Don’t take it for granted that it is “easy”.

Nothing is more frustrating to me, as a beginner in Fill-In-The-Blank, than having my friend assume some level of knowledge. With many of my friends who I introduced to kayaking, they didn’t know how to snap the paddles together. Yes, it is just a compression button and the two halves of a paddle snap together, but don’t assume they know how. Just kindly demonstrate how it’s done and move on.

4. Don’t hover.

Sure, the first time I taught somebody how to use my metal detector I was absolutely panicked at letting an expensive piece of equipment out of my sight. And then I got over it.

How?

By realizing that it’s much better to damage a piece of equipment through USE rather than just letting it collect dust until I was obsolete. And frankly, your friend probably won’t hurt your equipment at all. Isn’t it better to be able to share your excitement with somebody than always going out alone?

5. Assume that they want to take care of your gear.

Sure it can be never wracking letting somebody borrow or use your gear. As on only child “share” wasn’t really part of my vocabulary growing up! But, make the assumption that your friend will take good care of your stuff. After all, they care for YOU so it’ll naturally extend to your gear.

ESP Boss teaching Grandma Alice how to fish.

6. Reassure them it’s okay they use your stuff.

Hand-in-hand with #5, be sure to tell your buddy that you’re glad to have them along and excited to show them what you’ve been up to.

In the case of the kayaks, I always make sure to tell my friend that the kayaks are pretty much indestructible. With my metal detector, I just show them the bits that they need to be gentle with.

7. Don’t wait to “introduce” somebody to what you like to do.

I had barely started geocaching before I started dragging my friends along. I figured I knew more than them (how to use a GPS) so I could teach them what I knew.

Same with kayaking: I had done my research and gone out once. ESP Boss saw how much fun I was having so decided to try it too. (At the time, we only owned one ‘yak so he had to buy his own.) I gladly shared the little I knew and we learned together on the rest.

8. Enjoy yourself!

Your friend is more likely to relax and enjoy herself if you’re doing the same. When I’m “introducing” somebody to kayaking, I always go to Watson Lake. Why? Because the boat launch doesn’t stress me out, the lake is gorgeous any time of year, and I know it well enough to show off my favorite rock formations and islands.

9. Let them do as much as possible.

Sometimes I’m so busy trying to show off my knowledge, I forget to let my friend participate! I had to remind myself to let Nicole hold the GPS (and not lead the way to where I knew the cache was!) Or let somebody take the lead on a hike or kayak.

I could see the cache from the road, but I let Raven have the thrill of the find.

There’s a fine like between giving them knowledge and not letting them learn anything on their own. Sometimes, falling in the lake IS the best way to teach somebody how NOT to get out of a kayak!

10. Ask if they’re having a good time.

It’s usually pretty obvious, but asking if your friend likes it is okay too. I try to keep an eye on facial expressions and body language as well.

I took the gang from Up With People kayaking. Look at how much fun they're having!

When I was in college, I liked to ride the bus across town to go ice skating on Friday afternoons. Since I liked it, I had a stream of friends that I took along. Some liked it, some didn’t. But when I took my friend Elise, I made the mistake of not paying attention to HER. I was busy skating around and I didn’t realize that she was taking fall after fall. After about thirty minutes she begged me to go home. If I had been paying more attention, I would have realized that she wasn’t having a good time and cut the trip short.

11. Don’t expect everybody to love it.

Just like with Elise, I have plenty of friends that never want to go Fill-In-The-Blank with me again. It just wasn’t their cup of tea. But for every person who said “Thanks. I’d always wanted to try it and now I have. Bye!” there is somebody else who’s asked me: How do I register to find geocaches? Where should I buy a kayak? Or Can we go again?

Remember, your goal is to INTRODUCE somebody to what interests you. It’s up to them after that!

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