How To Talk To Anyone

  • Published on:
    March 29, 2019
  • Reading time by:
    5 minutes
How to talk to anyone womenontopp women on topp

No matter what role you hold in life personally or professionally you will inevitably find yourself in a situation talking to a stranger. Sometimes you click immediately and hold lengthy conversations with ease; other times, you feel so awkward that you’re searching for any reason to exit.

We tend to prefer what we know and stick to what’s comfortable, so it can be difficult to venture into conversations with unfamiliar people. Our brains decide in the first seven seconds of meeting someone whether we like them or not. We are hardwired to judge whether someone is more like or unlike us; the more “unlike” we determine them to be, the more we want to withdraw from being around them.

As a result, we have to make a conscious decision to override our unconscious brains. And the good news is that we can do this simply by telling ourselves (usually internally, not out loud!) to stay “open and curious”.

If you are willing to remain open and curious during a difficult conversation, then you’ll discover more ease and enjoyment with even the most awkward people.

When we let curiosity, rather than judgment, drive our conversations, we uncover information that was previously hidden. We travel a conversational path that is surprising and that allows us to connect with the other person in unexpected ways. Openness and curiosity become a playing field on which the words of our conversation have a friendly engagement. Conversations become less work and more fun.

To stay open and curious, we have to withhold judgment. We have to choose to listen to the other person with the goal of connecting to her, and we connect by asking great questions that we care about knowing the answers to.

Are you ready to try? Here are 10 questions that I keep in my back pocket (of my mind) when I’m meeting someone new. I encourage you to test out a few that seem interesting during your next work party or networking event – or even at home around the dinner table with family or friends.

Remember – the question is just the starting point. It’s up to you to keep the conversation going by letting your curiosity drive it!

10 Foolproof Questions for Great Conversations

1. What’s the most encouraging thing that’s happened to you this week?

This is my #1 question because it gets the other person thinking about a positive event in her life. I don’t think we share enough of our wins with one another because we fear sounding like a braggert, so this question invites the other person to safely celebrate herself because you want to celebrate with her.

2. What goal are you working toward right now?

As a coach, I’m always interested in knowing where people are headed. This question opens up the imagination and dream centers of our brains, and it gives me an opportunity to encourage the other person to keep going (and we all need a little encouragement!).

3. What’s the best advice you’ve received?

People like to feel useful and contribute value, whether to an organization or within a relationship. This question is a small way that you can ask a new contact to share some of her favorite wisdom with you.

4. What problem are you trying to solve (in life or business)?

I’m a natural problem-solver so I love asking this question to see how other people are processing their own obstacles and determine if I can help in some way. Be careful, though! Most people don’t want unsolicited advice. If someone is open to sharing her current dilemma with you, consider how you can best support her rather than rush to solve the problem. 

5. What’s inspiring you right now?

We all need a little inspiration in our lives, so why not get some from the people around us? I never fail to learn something new when I ask this question because the answer gives me insight into the person herself (what types of things inspire this person?) and also because her response may lead me into a new direction for myself.

6. What are you reading (or listening to)?

This is an easy question to start a conversation, but I suggest using it only if you have a response of your own because it’s also the most likely question the person will ask in return. 

7. What are you really good at?

This question is best asked once you have already started a conversation and discovered some background information about the person’s interests, hobbies, and job. It’s another invitation for her to share something she’s proud of without fear of sounding arrogant. 

8. What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened to you recently?

When we’re struggling to keep a conversation going with someone we don’t know well or don’t feel connected to, this question can open up a whole new range of topics. The answers can be humorous, uplifting, or even reveal a discouragement that the person recently faced. Tossing this question into the conversational mix gives you a chance to really enter into the other person’s world by tapping into empathy.

9. What are you feeling most excited about right now?

We give people a great gift when we enter into their joys, and this question can boost both your moods.

10. Why?

No matter what question you lead with, the best way to keep the conversation going is to follow up with “why?”. Asking why not only keeps you open and curious, it also leads the conversation well beyond surface level. When we ask “what inspires you?” and then investigate why that particular answer is inspiring, we engage the more compassionate parts of our hearts and form deeper connections with other people.

Remember, all humans have a deep need to be seen, heard, and understood. When we enter conversations truly open and curious about the person in front of us, and when we ask questions that matter, then we both get the pleasure of connecting. And who knows? You just might make a new friend.

Nicole Devereaux

You might also enjoy..

(PS: Let us know your thoughts in the comments on Women On Topp!)

First Job Interview in 20 Years? Here’s how to Nail It!

Many of us in the boomer generation are confronting a situation we never thought we would be dealing with: launching a second-act career in our 50s or 60s. Yet that is exactly what many of us are doing — bravely ripping up our old resumes and rewriting our life stories so that we can sync up with a world that has changed radically since we were las
by Mona Elhassan

Five Ways to Keep Your Team Motivated

The best teams are the teams that comprise of diverse groups of people – passionate people with opinions, ideas, and ambitions. However, if you’re a team lead, you’ll find that leading a diverse group of passionate people can prove to be a bit tricky.
Climbing the Corporate Ladder Vs The Entrepreneurial Experience: How To Decide Which Career Path Is Right For You
by Eva Steortz

Climbing the Corporate Ladder Vs The Entrepreneurial Experience: How To Decide Which Career Path Is Right For You

You deserve a career that fulfills you. One that gives you purpose and supports the life you want to lead. To achieve a dream-come-to career, you need to choose a path that aligns with your interests and your personality. Here are some pros and cons about working your way up the corporate ladder versus embarking on your own entrepreneurial path:

How To Prepare For A One Way Video Interview

The one-way video interview is on the rise: companies like Apple, Twitter, Google, and many more use a one-way video interview at some point in their hiring process. Some estimates have seen a nearly 30% increase in the use of pre-recorded interviews in the last year. While one-way interviews are a great time-saving tool for recruiters, they can be
by Haseena Bheekhun

How To Find The One? (Mentor) Part 2

The next part of the process is to actually connect with them. This can be done in a number of ways but it basically comes down to finding out where they are and going to them. Where are they the most online and offline? What is their given method of communication?
by Nicole Mastrangelo

4 Effective Meetings That Actually Produce Results

If you think it can be challenging to successfully achieve a personal goal, imagine how much more complex it can be to lead a team to success. Once you’re past the rigorous stages of goal setting and strategic planning, the real work begins. Aligning your team to your business objectives is critical for success- without it, there can be no result

Join the discussion!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.