Conversation starters are so hard, I find. It feels like working a puzzle but you’re not sure if your piece fits with the piece of the other person.
I hear the same from many other successful people too. We desire to engage another person in conversation that goes below the surface. We often don’t know how. That’s the challenge.
Perhaps you’ll join me in using this powerful, open-ended question to get a conversation going at your next networking event, industry meeting or conference. It also works well with colleagues within your company.
“What’s Your Outlook for This Year?”
Whenever I ask someone “What’s your outlook for this year?” they pause, and they think. It is so wonderfully open-ended. The other person can define ‘outlook’ how ever they want (personal, business, in terms of quality of life or in terms of financial measures of the company.) They don’t have to figure out the right answer because there is no right answer, just the answer that’s right for them.
Listen Carefully, Respond Appropriately
It’s your job to listen carefully and completely. You don’t get to tell them about your outlook until or unless they ask, later. Once they’ve spoken, you’ll improve the relationship if you ask more questions about what they’ve said. Again, you’ll want to keep these open-ended.
- How did you come to see that outlook?
- How do you plan to work on it?
- Who do you have to help you or support you?
- What other information would be useful to you?
- How will you know if you’re making progress?
If you can offer some help, advice, support or clever idea you can mention it. Please do not jump to a sales pitch or you’ll ruin the good relationship you’ve started. Offer to keep in touch and keep their outlook in mind. When you send a Thank You email, mention that you enjoyed hearing about their outlook for the year. You’ll stand out from the crowd and start a productive relationship that leads who knows where?
Find a way to remember this question the next time you’re meeting strangers or people you don’t know well. Commit to giving it a try a half dozen times and see what happens.
What other conversation starters do you use that keep a conversation with a stranger going for at least 5 minutes?