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What is the Right Way to Start and Sustain Conversations?

Let’s say you are at networking event or business function and spot the key decision maker for an account that can propel your business to another level.  The ice has been broken and for a few minutes the conversation rolls steady but soon quickly begins to fade.  What happened you say?

You have been told by experts to engage people by getting them to talk about themselves by asking probing questions.  Your questions about them may be clever while obviously listening intently to their answers.  As stated above, after a few minutes they are not as engaged and kindly excuse themselves to talk with other people.  You ask yourself is showing genuine interest with other people the key to connecting with them.

Connecting with people is an art and sustaining conversations with someone new you meet requires more than just showing genuine interest and asking probing questions.  While people do like to talk about themselves, the right way to start and sustain conversations is not with what you think or led to believe.   People will always talk about themselves with people they already know or when meeting someone new there is an instant reason from start of conversation to care about.

Think about it for a minute!  When people you do not know ask you a ton of probing questions from the start we have the natural reaction to lose interest and move on.

So what is the best way to connect and start a sustainable conversation with someone meaningful to you?

It starts early within the first 30 seconds of introduction after asking first question about them what your values are with conviction.  Influential people always admire and respect others that listened to their response to your question but also when you state your own values as it relates to their own.  If all you do is ask questions, you’re not showing your values. However, if you make statements about your values or follow your questions up with those kinds of statements, it is changes the scope of the conversation for the better.

For example, let’s say you meet a key decision maker or influential person at an event that you can benefit and vice versa to you.  The icebreaker has been made and you begin your questions to get this person talking about themselves.

Him:  “Every other month during the summer I take time to go fishing to exotic places.  It is what I love to do.”

You:  “What places have you been to fish?”

Him:  “Several, but Cabo is my favorite location.  My son and I go every year.”

You:  “What do you like most about fishing??”

Him:  “The challenge but also relaxes me at the same time.”

You:  “Wow that is great.  Where would you like to go next?”

Him:  “Probably somewhere off the coast of South Florida. They have a lot of grouper down there.  Would you excuse me as I have to meet my associate!  It was nice meeting you.”

These are all good questions but soon the other person will move on because your values have not been stated to make a connection that lead to a sustainable and more meaningful conversation.

Instead implement the following:

Him:  “Every other month during the summer I take time to go fishing to exotic places.  It is what I love to do.”

You:  “That sounds great—I do not go fishing very often but love to run outdoors.  There is no better feeling I get when running and connecting with nature at the same time. It brings me inner peace while elevating my attitude toward life and business. It looks like fishing does the same for you.”

Him:  “Absolutely, there is no better feeling for me doing what I love to do.”

See, you now have firmly established your values and something about yourself that connects with this person even if they are not the same activities.  It is your values connecting with the other person’s value that is the key to sustaining the conversation to another level.  When you cut through the surface questions and connect on values it changes the whole direction of the conversation.

Therefore, when you meet new people especially key contacts that can change the course of your business, take this into account.  Never ask series of surfaced questions and reinforce what they love to do.  Relate to them; take the information you get in the first questions and use it as an opportunity to reveal something about yourself.  You should never be concerned if what you say doesn’t totally agree with their statement.  As long as you are revealing your values in a non-judgmental way, you will be able to take the conversation to another level.  They will probably even respect you for the courage it took to show how you are different.  Showing conviction in those feelings and beliefs builds respect, maintains interest and encourages them to share the things that are important to them.

What changes can you make now to make your conversations stronger for deeper connections?

  • Get clear about your values by writing them down. Be honest about it but these values must be stated with conviction and passion.
  • How do your decisions reflect those values? For example, did you bypass work opportunities to spend more time with family?
  • What has manifested itself as a result of your values? Be sure to share with people during the conversation as it gains respect from them as being authentic.

Then, the next time you find yourself in conversation asking more than two-to-three consecutive questions, slow down.

Remember, the goal to any conversation is to connect by relating to each other’s values.  Listening throughout and asking a good opening question supports this very well.

To your health & prosperity,
Christopher Salem

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