Don’t you just love working to keep up a conversation with someone you don’t know?
Yeah, neither do most of us.
You’re attending a dinner full of fantastic potential contacts – if only it wasn’t so hard to approach them. Or, you’re in a long-awaited meeting with a new prospect, and you desperately want to get this exchange right.
How can you spark – and fan the flames of – a meaningful conversation? How can you do it in a way that
a. Keeps them interested
b. Warms your relationship
c. Hikes their interest in you and your cause?
Dale Carnegie has some insightful advice:
“The greatest conversationalists are those who do the least of the talking.”
The best way to engage others? Show interest in them, and in what they have to say.
It’s as simple as pure human nature.
So – tachlis:
You’ve introduced yourself. Went through those first few standard question-answers.
It’s time to ask one magical little question. In three words, it meets all of the a-b-c goals we listed above:
“What’s your story?”
This question gets people talking like no other. Because, if we’re honest, the most interesting subject to any person is – themselves. Their history. Their feelings. Their quirks. Their passions. Their struggles. Their accomplishments.
Now, what’s a natural way to segue into this question?
- To the self-made CEO: “I’ve heard a bit about how you developed your company. What’s your story? How did you build yourself from the ground up like that?”
- To the wealthy philanthropist: “You’re involved in such a huge number of causes. What’s your story? What made you get so involved in helping the community?”
Like the proverbial crockpot dinner, you’ve prepped yourself a set-it-and-forget-it conversation. All you need to do now is sit back and listen.
Well, you might have to put in a bit more work. You’ll need to make sure you’re following the rules of good listening. You may need to prompt your new schmoozing partner with some guiding questions.
And – here’s the caveat – the interest you show needs to be genuine. You need to be fascinated by their experience. Interested to learn and grow from them.
Put in those bits of effort, however – listening well, prompting when necessary, and working up some genuine interest – and you won’t just accomplish our a-b-c goals:
a. Keeping them interested (what’s more interesting to talk about than themselves?)
b. Warming your relationship (showing so much interest in them skyrockets your likeability)
c. Hiking their interest in your cause (once they’re done talking, they’ll likely return the favor)
You’ll also meet these new ones into the bargain:
d. You’ll make yourself and your cause extra-memorable
e. You’ll learn valuable information about your new friend – their values, dreams, hopes, interests, challenges…
f. Which means you’ll be able to speak to them in their own language and build a deeper connection with them
Oh, and you’ll save yourself from having to do most of the talking!