Make connections with the right questionsWritten by Tom Richard | | email@example.com
The minute a new acquaintance discovers I live in a small town, they always ask me the same question, “Hey, do you know so-and-so?” Unfortunately, I don’t know a lot of people in my town, so I always end up answering, “No, I don’t.” Then, I watch as the person becomes disappointed and quickly searches their mind for something else we may have in common.
The truth is that even if I did know more people in my town, this question would still annoy me. In the world of meaningful conversation, it just doesn’t serve any purpose. Think of a time when someone has asked where you went to school. The moment you answered, the other person probably tried to think of someone who went to the same school. Then, they asked if you knew that very person. Did your response to their question play a significant role in shaping a real connection between the two of you?
In most cases, you don’t know who the other person is referring to. On the occasional times that you do, you can immediately see the other person’s face light up as if they just discovered the identity of the second shooter on the grassy knoll. Yet, even in those rare cases, the happy connection is fleeting. What follows is a moment of fidgety awkwardness, when both of you realize that knowing or not knowing this particular person serves no purpose in forming conversation or helping you get to know each other.
Why is it, then, that people feel strangely obsessed with discovering whether they share an acquaintance in their network of people? The answer is simple: There is a natural tendency — rather, a natural need — for humans to make a connection at the start of conversation. It helps us feel comfortable enough with one another to share our thoughts and make engaging conversation. The problem is that when left to our own devices, many of us don’t know a successful way to make that important connection.
Effective conversation starters are those that hit on an issue or idea that the other person is truly passionate about. Instead of asking a Realtor if they are selling any houses, why not ask them how tired they are of people asking them if they are selling any houses? Instead of asking a store owner how business is doing, ask them which store items are selling like hotcakes this season. These questions will not only help you direct the conversation, they will evoke an impassioned response that will lead to an engaging discussion.
To be successful in business, you must have the ability to connect with those around you. In fact, your ability to quickly connect with others could provide you with the competitive advantage you have been looking for. The opportunities you have to do this are endless and begin with the simple awareness of how you initiate conversation. Recognizing poor attempts for conversation used by yourself and others will encourage you to make the effort to change those attempts into successful and meaningful conversation.
As you reunite with friends and family this holiday season, pay close attention to the skin-deep methods used to start conversation by those you haven’t seen in quite some time. You will, no doubt, hear questions like, “How is business?” or “How are the kids?” You will probably also catch yourself asking others these same questions. Recognizing these mundane conversational attempts will help you break the awkward beginning with questions that will facilitate engaging conversation.
Although initiating conversation isn’t always flawless, it usually happens with the best of intentions. Those who ask you even the most mundane or trivial questions really are trying their best to get to know you. Help them build a strong connection with you by asking questions that draw out what they are most passionate about. I guarantee it will make the conversation worth starting.
Tom Richard is a Toledo-based sales trainer, gives seminars, runs sales meetings and provides coaching for salespeople. For more information, visit www.TomRichard.com, call
(419) 441-1005 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.