As a result of a recent blog, I was contacted by an old friend I have not seen in over a decade. He is serving as a leader for religious organization doing some terrific philanthropic work. He asked me how his team members could improve their skill in engaging people in conversation and showing genuine interest and concern. Hopefully, the response I provided to my old friend, can help you in your own efforts to network and connect in a meaningful way with people. My advice to him read as follows:
Dear Scott –
Interestingly, when you posed your question about how to engage people in conversation and truly show genuine interest, it reminded me of a section of my forthcoming book where I actually address this topic. (see more on that below). To me, the secret sauce for successfully connecting with others begins with simply being Curious. Teach your team to ask questions and then follow up with them.
The former first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt once said:
“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.”
The ability to ask great questions is an important life skill. What you are really trying to do is to find Areas of Commonality.
Ask open ended questions in order to avoid a simple yes or no. When questions are posed in a meaningful way, People love to talk about themselves. Here are ten sample questions that might be useful.
- Where you are from?
- What brought you to this area today?
- Tell me about your family.
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- Tell me about the business you are in.
- What do you want to be doing five years from now?
- Do you have a favorite quote?
- What has been your biggest challenge in life?
- What has been your biggest success up until now?
- Tell me about a perfect day for you and your family.
The first five questions are “warm ups” and the next five help you establish a deeper connection. For example, you can’t just dive into question 8 without first understanding where the person comes from.
The next part is just as important – the ability to find and follow up on areas of common interest. As you discuss matters of mutual interest, trust will begin to form. Once trust exists, the entire conversation will take on a different nature and matters of deeper importance can be discussed.
Einstein stated deeply:
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
The following is an excerpt from my new book Up Your Game coming May 14, 2014:
Connecting, relating, having top-of-mind status with others, creating a following – it’s all about feeling, sincere curiosity, real emotion, trust, loyalty, and real interest. When you combine genuine interest in people with an ability to pose a series of great questions, the doors of opportunity will open to you.
In a February 2013 article in Forbes magazine entitled “Things Leaders Do” we learn that great managers “ask questions and seek counsel all the time.” From the outside, it appears they know everything but “inside, they have a deep thirst for knowledge and constantly are on the look-out to learn new things.” In other words…they are curious.
Sometimes we become intimidated by overthinking the process. If you want to increase your affection for people and have more impact, get interested! It’s that easy. How do you learn to genuinely connect with people? How do you learn to extend yourself, your interest, and your compassion for those around you and warm up so they feel your personality? My belief is that endearment of people comes only after your curiosity about them begins.
So what about you?
What are your favorite questions to ask to get acquainted with someone new? Please share with me in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!