spark a new, real conversation with a stronger opening question
I’m never more aware of it than I am on a Monday morning. Especially a rainy, Monday morning. But we sometimes – letsbehonest, oftentimes – get stuck in conversation ruts. Meaning we ask the same people or the same type of people, he same questions or the same type of questions. We sit down for coffee, we’re waiting to be seated for lunch, we’re holding on a call with two people on the line, waiting for the third. And we ask the most warm, melted, vanilla ice cream boring questions ever.
A couple repeat offenders –
How are you?
What do you do?
How was your weekend?
Where are you from?
Who are your clients?
Here’s why I think those q’s bug me. First of all – and like I said almost immediately – they’re boring; like steeping in mediocrity. Seriously – we’ve been asking each other those questions forever. Secondly – I can answer most of them with one word. And, if you catch me in a mood, I won’t hesitate to answer them with one word and one word only. And then we’ll just stare at each other.
Lastly – and I think most importantly -I hate feeling like the other person just doesn’t even really care about my answers. And I think those questions make me feel like that even before I’ve answered them. Like, are you really, truly asking me how I am? Do you really care what I do to make money and thrive? Will you cancel your next call if I tell you what’s wrong?
On a whole other level, here’s why I think conversation ruts really bug me – they let the question asker off the hook. We don’t really have to listen all that intently because – when we open with a generic question – it’s like we’re signaling to the other person that we don’t really want to get into it. Like I said, dripping with warm, vanilla ice cream.
So, my challenge for you this week is to start asking different questions – spark a new, real conversation with a stronger, more powerful opening question. It works in-person or over text. Maybe instead of asking how someone is, ask them the best part of their day so far; or instead of asking them where they’re from, ask them what sport they grew up playing, and why. Even asking ‘what’s new?’ opens up the playing field more than ‘how are you?’
They’re really small tweaks you can make to your language choices that will change the really big way you connect with someone.
And – hey – if you’re on the receiving end of one of those generic questions, maybe consciously choose to answer it differently. Instead of a flat-answer ‘fine’ or ‘good’ to the question of ‘how are you?’ maybe just go ahead and tell them the best part of your day. If it’s a rainy, Monday morning, they might need it just as much as you do.
Again – it’s a really small tweak to your language choices that’ll change the really big way you connect with someone.