A Lesson in Turning Strangers into Friends

In late 2009, my daughters and I embraced a new adventure and headed several hours north of Phoenix to beautiful Sedona. I take any and every opportunity to visit Sedona! My spiritual mentor and friend, Tarra, was hosting a weekend healing workshop. She talked about these workshops over the years yet the time didn’t seem right until 2009. I was glad my daughters and I were traveling together. We needed healing from several things and, being like minded, felt this would be a good bonding experience.

Being a speaker and having given keynotes, presentations, conducted workshops, etc.. for up to thousands of people, one wouldn’t know that I am an introvert at heart. Throughout my career, I have learned to be an extrovert in these environments. Walking up to people I didn’t know, both internal and external to organizations I’ve worked for, wasn’t a problem at all. I welcomed the opportunity to meet new people, create relationships and build networks all over the place. In my personal life, however, I have always had smaller circles of friends and associates. I generally wouldn’t have walked up to ‘strangers’ and talked to them. I have always been a terrific observer of my surroundings, I just wasn’t comfortable talking with people I didn’t know.

At this 2009 Sedona workshop, I observed this young, vibrant woman named Carlyn. I admired Carlyn’s energy and heart. She flitted around and met everyone in our workshop. She found common ground, asked a lot of questions and loved people. It seemed to be her ‘thing’. While we met at this workshop, we weren’t connected then in a way we sometimes are when meeting someone new. Inspired by her attitude, I made it a point to reach out to several people. One such person, Duane, really helped one of my daughters make some significant breakthroughs that weekend. We kept in touch and Duane even came to Arizona to visit for a lovely dinner on his way across the country. This wouldn’t have happened had I not been inspired by Carlyn.

Carlyn and I became Facebook friends and, in November 2011, Carlyn reached out to me about sharing a room for another upcoming writing workshop in Sedona. Typically, I never, ever share rooms with people outside my immediate family or the youth organization I am involved in. It took a LOT for me to even consider this. I like my quiet time to reflect on things and time alone; something I rarely get at home. I was looking forward to this retreat, in part, for the time alone! Something compelled me to say yes to Carlyn. After all, I felt inspired by her story and thought it would be a win-win financially. We ended up having to share a bed. This was a little too much for us both as we thought we were getting a two-bed room. Somehow we managed. Carlyn is a little thing and is very low maintenance. Me, on the other hand – I require my body pillow, pillow behind me, at my head, eye mask., etc… You get the idea:-)

We talked about her company, “Turning Strangers Into Friends,” and, once again, I was in awe as I learned how she managed to find places to stay across the country, get a ride to another state, get connected on an MS charity, find a publishing lead for her book and then some. So, one day I decided to stretch myself and talk to others I hadn’t connected with at the retreat. I made it a point to at least introduce myself and talk for a bit to just about everyone.

A few months later at a late 2011 healing retreat and still feeling the ‘high’ from this experience, I decided I was going to continue Carlyn’s method to connecting with strangers. One day, I saw a very, very distraught woman from the retreat coming towards me in a hallway at break time. It would have been so easy to just ignore her or walk past her. Instead, I mustered the courage to just wrap my arms around her and console her. I helped her through this important moment in her life and, in her words, I saved her life. WOW. This was certainly a lesson learned for me.

Thanks to Carlyn, I have a new perspective on ‘strangers’. She does a magnificent job making friends wherever she goes and these connections run deep; like a multi-level marketing company where one person leads to another to another to another. While I’m not completely ‘there’ yet, I have learned the value of turning strangers into friends. Being a lifelong learner, I learned to take risks, stretch myself, overcome fears (false evidence appearing real) and my life is better for it.

Turn a stranger into a friend today!! You never know what you will discover and where it will take you.

Cheers to new friends all over the world,


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Tandy Elisala

Family Caregiver Coach, Cancer Empowerment Advocate and Chief Inspiration Officer at Center for Inspiring Greatness | Empowered Family Caregiver
Tandy Elisala is passionate about helping family caregivers go from being overwhelmed and stressed to empowered and calm. Tandy went through cancer four times and learned how to heal using conventional, complementary, and alternative therapy. Tandy left her corporate career to take care of both parents simultaneously while raising three kids as a single mom. She took care of both parents for 2 1/2 years until their respective deaths. Tandy now teaches what she learned on her journey. Tandy is a family caregiver coach, a multiple best-selling author, inspirational speaker and mom to three adult kids, one angel dog and one diva cat.

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