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American Odyssey, Part IV

As most of you are aware, lately I have been refreshing some old writings of mine from 2001, the year I spent working in the U.S. This week I have decided to include a passage indicating why Iowans are such nice people. What made me decide to pick this passage, which is from October 2001, is because on Tuesday night of this week, I had a surprise visitor from Cedar Rapids this week. He works in the Major Gifts group at the University of Iowa Foundation. He was in town because there is a new Foundation Director who lives here in Toronto who he was coming to visit, and he decided to look up in the directory if there were any other Iowans in Toronto and my name popped up. It was an absolutely wonderful and timely visit. I had never met the man before and by the time he left our home I felt I had known him my whole life. It just refreshed for me the power of making the world small and getting to know other people—in effect the power of the commonality that supports effective networking. If you struggle with meeting new people, you may want to take the Iowan approach, because it works. This is the passage from 2001:

Why Do I Say Iowans Are So Nice?

Someone asked why I felt that Iowans are extraordinarily nice people.

It starts with the fact that it is never difficult to start a conversation on the street with a stranger in Iowa. The reality is that an Iowan will probably start the conversation anyway. Everyone you meet on the street will say hello. Everyone you pass in a car will wave. Everyone in a customer service position—at the bank, with the gas company, with the cable company, etc., will tell you to have a nice day and will ask you to come again. That’s nice.

My co-workers are a good cross-section of Iowans. They ask me every day if I want to go and get a coffee or if I want to be included at lunch. They bring treats to work. They tell me when I look nice and ask me how I feel if I look sick or tired. They have taken the time to ensure that I meet people. Actually, this goes beyond just the people at my office. Clients or contacts that I’ve met have taken steps, in particular, to ensure I have met every Canadian in Cedar Rapids. Everyone, no matter what level, keeps large quantities of pictures of their kids in their offices. They use the words, “wow”, “cool”, “neat”, “fabulous” and “how wonderful” in sentences regularly. They smile. They make eye contact. And they do it so naturally and so infectiously that it doesn’t take long before you realize that you are doing it too.

Iowans laugh a lot, at themselves, at other people. I wouldn’t say they (as a people) are broad thinkers but they do find humour in simple things. I hear laughter all day. They don’t worry about being politically correct or make excuses for who they are or what they like. (They dislike Iowa corn jokes). They invite you to be a part of them.

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