Situational Awareness

by Vince Fabra

Bill Murray Cover Situational awareness is an underrated piece of the lifestyle of Social Excellence. Using the context of a situation to drive the content of our conversation is a quick path to a strong connection.

Here are two stories, one about a phriend of Phired Up and one personal, that share how situational awareness can lead to meaningful relationships, powerful conversations and just better stories to share with friends.

Ian Lowe, Executive Director of Pi Lambda Phi, shared a fascinating story with me recently of how he used situational awareness to turn an ordinary moment into a meaningful relationship (“meaningful” is a sincere understatement).

While attending a professional conference, Ian Lowe found himself in an educational session sitting near a stranger. Waiting for the session to start, Ian wanted to talk to this person and was searching for the perfect way to strike up a quality conversation. Did he go with the old-fashioned “Hi, my names is…”? Nope. Did he do the overused name-tag peak and begin asking questions about name, school and position? Not this guy. He used some situational awareness and asked a great question. Noticing the situation, Ian leaned over and said, “Hi. So tell me why you chose this session.” This was the gateway to a great conversation, and this is also the story of how Ian met his fiancee, Christine. Ian and Christine’s story is one full of bold choices, fun memories and sacrifice, but it all started with situational awareness.

If you know anything about me, you know I love comedy. If you know anything about comedy, you know that for the better part of three decades, few have done it better than Bill Freakin’ Murray. With a little bit of situational awareness, I was able to meet one of my comedy heroes in a fun, unique way.

Flying out of my home in Charleston, SC, I was checking into my Delta flight as I turned and saw Bill Freakin’ Murray (Mr. Freakin’ Murray lives in Charleston when he’s not making movies). He was standing with a younger woman who was either family, a friend or an assistant. Stopping to take notice of the situation, I gathered a few things. She had bags, he did not and their conversation did not seem to be a pleasant one. Perhaps they were discussing a travel delay of hers or some other stressful matter. Situational awareness was telling me this was not the time to walk over, stick my hand out and say, “I’m a huge fan.” I had to think fast, because passing up on this chance would become a huge regret of mine. Then I remembered my ticket to a great conversation. In my backpack, I had an issue of GQ magazine. This particular issue had Bill Freakin’ Murray on the cover. I sat down in a chair in his direct eye line, I pulled out the magazine, and just stared at him. For about 60 nervous, anxious, heart pounding seconds, I waited for Mr. Murray to notice my ploy to get his attention. I saw his eyes recognize what I was holding, focus in on the picture and then notice me staring at him, realizing my goal to get his attention. He then stepped back and had a good laugh. He got the attention of the woman and pointed my way. I knew I was in. I walk/ran/sprinted over there, shook his hand and we began to have a conversation. We talked about his picture on the cover of GQ, the article inside, the Charleston comedy scene and my passion to be a comedian. We then parted ways, but not before I invited him to our weekly open mic, and if you’ve heard any stories about Bill Freakin Murray, he just might drop in one of these days.

Every moment is a choice. We can choose to say nothing or say something. And if we choose to say something, we can choose to notice our situation and use it to our advantage. Who knows what will happen? You may meet your future spouse, your childhood idol or you might just grow your organization through meaningful relationships.

Choose to say something and choose to say the right thing using situational awareness.