Shortly after 9/11 i went on a teacher-training course. There were quite a few people there – men and women – but mostly women.
Now picture this, I’m a Muslim guy – a practising Muslim guy – with a beard, and I wear a hat.
As you can imagine, all eyes fell on me as I walked into the classroom. And the looks I was getting weren’t very welcoming. The women, in particular, were staring daggers at me.
You see, my beard and hat were my ‘headline’ as I walked in, and everyone there figured they already knew what I was about and what was coming. I could see it in their eyes.
Anyway, as a general icebreaker, the instructor gave us a line and asked us to complete it (no, not a white line, silly).
The line was: “If I won the national lottery I would…”
As we went around the room everyone said the usual – “…go on a world cruise”, or, “…buy a Rolls Royce”, etc. You get the picture, right?
I knew I’d have to change my headline, the one I walked into the room with, and give everyone there an indication of the person I really am.
So, when it came to my turn I said, “If I won the national lottery I would… be very surprised… because I’ve never bought a ticket in my life”.
The whole class erupted into laughter.
I got my winning headline. After that it was all downhill.
Not only did everyone want to get to know me, they were happy to be part of my group. As it turned out, the instructor placed me in a group with two women, one of whom was giving me particularly nasty stares at the beginning.
After my intro, she was happy to be in my group.
The rest of the course went extremely well, with me leading my team for the two days we were there.
And the icing on the cake?
After the course ended, the instructor mentioned that a small number of people, a very few, would be getting distinctions. When I received my diploma a few weeks later, I found I was one of those people.
When I look back I realise that if I had not come up with a good ‘headline’ I may have had a very unpleasant time there.
And no one would have wanted to find out any more about me. Which is what the headline is supposed to do – make people want to find out more.