If you caught last week’s episode, you know we are talking about how to create conversations that generate inspiration and engagement. I’m always looking for a good question. There are so many questions you could ask, but I’m talking about the kind of question that makes you stop and say “Now THAT’S a good question.”
Initiating Memorable Conversations
As a leader, this should be critically important to you. Whether you are talking to a team member, your manager, a client, or a stranger, you need to be comfortable initiating memorable conversations. If we are honest, a high percentage of our conversations are anything but memorable.
I expect that you want to stand out. Not to draw attention to yourself, but to differentiate you from your peers. You know this: anyone can fill the void (or silence) with meaningless words. How many people do you know that consistently ask thoughtful questions? It follows that the ones you respect the most are likely great at asking questions which generate inspiring conversations!
When was the last time that someone had a question for you which had the opposite effect of inspiring? Instead of engaging, it made you want to run away. I experienced this recently while attending a networking event.
Don’t Do This
So this particular event was one that I had never attended previously. It was close to the house (literally, only a few minutes away) and at a restaurant that I had seen several times before. It was free and just a simple meetup which I sincerely appreciated.
As I entered the room, there was a registration table where you signed in. I didn’t have an issue with providing my contact info as I had submitted it online in order to register. And I do want to know when future meetups occur. What I thought was kind of interesting though was that the host/co-host were realtors. Again, it doesn’t bother me; however, I thought it was an interesting way to acquire some names and contact details.
I’m not exaggerating here. I take five steps away from the registration table where two gents are talking. The one stops almost mid-sentence, sticks out his hand, and says “I’m Charlie,” (I’ve changed the names to protect the guilty) and without taking a pause or a breath, says “so what’s your story?”
It was just…weird. How do you respond to that? Should I start at birth? Do I just talk about the last six months? How much should I share? I was a little surprised.
A Good Book
You might recall that back in Episode 77: The Question You Should Never Ask When Meeting Someone New, I shared some great information from David Burkus. He wrote a book called Friend of a Friend. If you haven’t picked it up yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. That episode rightly points out why you should avoid the “What do you do?” question.
So on this point, I’ll give Charlie credit. At least he asked about my story, whatever that means! Nice guy. Wrong approach. A little thought before showing up at the event would have allowed him the opportunity to have a question up his sleeve that no one expected. Something that would impress. But, alas, opportunity lost.
Now obviously, this was an attempt by an individual who was uncomfortable or nieve about how to initiate a meaningful conversation.
An Unintentional Outcome
So as the discussion moved along, or shall I say, as the discussion was drug along, I made an interesting discovery: this gent is a life coach. In fairness, he might be the most exceptional life coach on the face of the earth. I don’t know. What I do know? That’s not the first (second, or 200th) place that I’m going to turn for life advice.
And this is why I’m taking the time to do this episode! I want you to look like you know what you are doing. You should be empowered to use thoughtful and thought-provoking questions ESPECIALLY when you are trying to engage with a potential customer! Being talkative is not enough.
Getting To What’s Important
I can bore you to tears with so many words on topics you don’t care about. You know the kind of person I’m talking about. They seem to have an infinite number of details about something you’ve never heard of and couldn’t possibly care less about! That’s not you though. You are smarter than that. You know what every person wants to talk about: themselves.
This is such an important skill. You want the questions you ask to be productive, stimulating, and attention-grabbing. Relisten to Episode 77 for some ideas.
But here, I want to focus on some questions that will work well regardless of the environment. They are useful both with those whom you know and those who you will soon get to know. I came across several of these questions in an Inc Magazine article written by Elise Keith (the link is in the show notes) and others are my own.
So here we go. Check these out:
- What are you passionate about achieving this year?
- What has been your highlight (or lowlight) so far this year?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, money is no object, where would you like to go?
- What are you reading right now? or What is a book you would recommend?
- Do you think to talk or talk to think?
- Are you energized by a crowd or does it deplete you?
- What is your favorite time of day and why?
- How do you prepare when it’s time to do your best focus work?
- What personal or professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
- If you had to share the single most important life lesson with your favorite young person, what one would you choose to share?
- Do you collect anything?
- What are you grateful for?
- If you could pick up a new skill in an instant, what would it be?
- What was the first significant thing you bought with your own money?
- What is your favorite restaurant?
And maybe it’s a tired question, but it’s a good one: if you could share a meal with any person in the world, alive or dead, who would you choose?
I guarantee you, if you will use one of these questions instead of “What’s your story?” or “What do you do?”, no one will leave that conversation thinking “Man, that was weird!”
Try it out and let me know how it goes.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
The Leader To Leader Podcast Episode 113: The Unintentional Impact Of Careless Conversations
The Leader To Leader Podcast Episode 77: The Question You Should Never Ask When Meeting Someone New
Elise Keith’s article in Inc. Magazine 28 Icebreaker Questions to Start Your Next Team Meeting
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