Asking questions is surprisingly easy if you have this mantra, “Everyone has a story, and my goal is to find out what that is.” Of course it’s not an aggressive gotcha-journalistic style and it’s not meant to extract a story that ends with a person crying–Barbara Walters are you listening?
Their ‘story’ may not be how they escaped by foot over the snow-covered mountains of Afghanistan (but we’ve heard that!). It could be their passion, what they care about, or what they’ve done that is interesting (even if they don’t think so). A person should feel good after they have spoken with you.
Here’s what you can do to have this outcome:
- Speak first. Be the friendly new person, no hesitation–just say hi. Then, to avoid the awkwardness of what next, ask them easy, logical questions. If it’s a business event ask them what they do. If it’s a social event, maybe ask them how they know the host.
- Relax and start listening. Don’t worry about what you are going to say next. Make the other person feel comfortable. The easiest way to do this is to be focused on them, make eye contact and look interested. You would think everyone does this naturally, but we’ve all had the experience of trying to talk to a bored, ‘judgy’ or distracted person. Not fun.
- Keep the ball rolling. Encourage the other person to talk by nodding every once and awhile. It’s a nonverbal signal that shows you’re absorbing what the other speaker is saying. Or speak up occasionally: Good point!” “Interesting, I didn’t know that.” “What was that like?”
- Use their name. It will help you remember it, and people do love the sound of their own name.
- Don’t give up too soon. Most people give up too early in a conversation and miss the nuggets of information that are waiting just below the surface.
“What’s a good question? When you care about the answer.”
– Gayle Hallgren-Rezac
-Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, Judy Thomson and Darcy Rezac, authors of Work The Pond! Shepa Learning Company
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