Would you like to able to walk up to a stranger– any stranger– and start a conversation?
I believe that there are a few basic principles that work wonders in virtually any situation and will work with anyone.
As a business professional looking to improve your social skills in order to build your trusted network, these strategies will help you start up conversations way more confidently.
Here are the basic elements:
1. Start with a smart question.
Always start with a question. Why? Because questions open up a conversation for further dialogue and will show the person you are talking to that you’re interested in them.
The last thing you want to do is make a statement. A statement may or may not result in the kind of response from the other person that leads to a natural follow-up and this may lead to an awkward silence and missed opportunity.
A question allows you to keep this from happening by controlling the conversation and sending it in a favourable (your) direction.
2. What kind of question should I ask?
The first thing that is likely comes to your mind is “So, what question(s) do I ask?”
Firstly, choose an open-ended question rather than a yes/no question so that you have more to talk about.
Stay away from touchy subjects such as Brexit, whether Boris should become Prime Minister and religion.
Instead, ask questions like or pertaining to:
• What is their business and what does it do.
Business people often love to talk about their business and will jump at the chance of telling you all about their fantastic business!
• What role they play within their business: If there are part of a network, you could say something like “Hi, I keep seeing you around and I’ve been meaning to say hi. Then you can ask them what role they play within their business”
Some of these are better as openers and others follow-ups, but each of the above points has several of each type of question you can mix and match to jump start a conversation.
3. Then, really listen to their answer
This is one of the most critical steps yet something that most people are rubbish at. And this includes me.
Listening is critical because it allows you to give a relevant response that not only shows the other person you were listening the answer tells them a great deal about yourself.
When you’re really listening, you often pick up on bits of information that naturally lead to follow up questions and comments that naturally move the conversation forward.
Seriously, if you haven’t yet taken the time to really learn how to listen then do yourself a favour and do that now.
Start it straight away and make listening a habit and people will love you for it!
4. Finally, make a (relevant) statement
A great conversation is a balance between questions and answers.
That might sound too simplistic, however, in actual practice most of us either talk the other person’s ear off or have been misinformed that repeated questions will allow us to control the conversation and lead the other person to think that we’re interested in them.
You want to start, and base, the conversation in open-ended questions. However, you also want to respond to their answer with your own statement instead of rolling into another question. Repeated questions will make the other person feel like they’re being interrogated.
5. Be enthusiastic.
One last yet very important point: don’t be afraid to be enthusiastic.
Your first inclination might be to suppress your energy and enthusiasm, hold your hands in your pockets when you want to gesture, and generally stay “cool”. However, we typically react more positively to shows of enthusiasm through hand gestures, facial expressions, and teasing our voice with different tones and volumes.
This makes a conversation more interesting and we all rather be around someone fun and energetic than someone dull and lifeless.
Whilst the above would appear to be quite simple, in practice you will need to practice.
Dependant on your personality, this may prove very challenging. Just persevere and create a habit that will reap benefits in most walks of life.
Written by David Hargreaves for The Growth Gurus.
www.thegrowthgurus.co.uk | 0333 577 2289 | firstname.lastname@example.org