Have you ever wondered why it seems effortless for some people to be able to talk to almost anyone, anytime or anywhere? With technological gadgets seemingly taking over our lives each day, the art of face to face conversation is something fewer people, especially the millennial generation are becoming skilled at, or practicing on a regular basis. However, what if you or they knew about a simple technique which would allow you to easily have a conversation with anyone you desired? Would you want to know how to do this? Would it help you personally or professionally? I going out on a limb and admitting this is a rhetorical question.
About twenty-five years ago while we were having lunch at work, a good friend of mine asked me what I perceived to be a very simple yet deep question. She asked me how I could so easily have conversations with everyone I encountered. Upon hearing this question, I realized perhaps this was not something everyone could easily do, and I took it for granted the ability to converse with others came so easily to me. I then thought about what had I done differently in my life to make conversing with others happen so naturally and with ease? This answer might surprise you, and it is a two-part response.
The first part of answering this question about why I find it easy to talk to anyone is because I have always found it easy to talk to other people due to the fact I am genuinely interested and curious to learn more about them. The only way I know how to learn more about other people is to ask them questions, and not be afraid to do so. Typically, I will ask an open-ended type of question which does not permit a yes or no answer, and which allows me to naturally ask follow on type of questions. When I began explaining to my friend who wanted to know how to more easily speak to anyone about anything at any time, I told her what now looking back is one of the greatest and easiest things to teach someone. I explained to her all you need to do is to have a few simple questions you can ask someone which will get them talking.
Examples of the types of questions I shared with my friend were to have her start out with asking someone if they had any travel plans, or had recently been to someplace they would recommend to others. This could be either related to a trip, or an experience they had doing something different than their normal daily routine, and which they would be very willing to share information about (e.g., they went white water rafting). What you might not realize is that people love talking about themselves, even if they are shy. By asking them an open-ended type of question, you allow them to feel comfortable with talking to someone, and this then allows the person they are conversing with to ask additional questions. The result of this conversational exchange is it can often lead to a fascinating conversation you would not otherwise have had.
Upon having had thousands of conversations with people in my lifetime, what I am most surprised by, and I think you will be too, is how once you get someone talking, you will be amazed at how infrequently they will reciprocate and ask you questions back. People who are skilled at conversing will ask you questions back, and more than a few of them. However, many people will not, and this is a shame because the more you converse with others, the skilled you become as a conversationalist. This enhanced skill can ultimately lead to a lifetime of opportunities you would not otherwise have it you did not begin your conversation in the first place. By conversing with others, you are planting the seeds of developing a relationship with the individual, and allowing them to more easily converse with you again. By asking people questions, they will also be more inclined to like you as a person, and let’s face it, I always tell people you can never have too many friends.
If you have not had a conversation with a stranger or someone you only slightly know, give this conversational technique a try. You will be amazed at the possibilities of where the conversation can or will take you, and if nothing else, you will have practiced the art of conversation which everyone should be working on mastering, just like learning how to read body language is an important life and business skill.
Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me Too. Market Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at firstname.lastname@example.org.