Do you ever find yourself having a hard time holding conversations with people you barely know? For example, when you’re at a networking event or meeting your girlfriend’s friends and family for the first time, or when you’re stuck in the airport and your phone died so you have to talk to someone. I think you get where I’m coming from. It’s natural to feel awkward when trying to force a conversation with people who you don’t know. But in life and business it happens all the time so I’m going to share some techniques I’ve learned from professionals along the way.
First of all, you want to look presentable and like a genuinely pleasant person to speak to. As much as we like to think that we don’t judge others, the fact is, we do. We’re judgmental to the point where we’re likely to see someone we don’t know and judge the type of person they in a matter of seconds. Being presentable and approachable will make the whole “conversation with a stranger” thing far less awkward.
Next, and maybe most important, is to ask open-ended questions and to let them do most of the talking. It is so important and actually harder than it sounds. Nothing will kill your conversation faster and provide you with the dreaded Awkward Silence like asking something that can be answered with a simple YES or NO. To hold an open-ended conversation you will need to rely on your “conversation stack”. This is what I learned from the professionals I mentioned earlier.
The purpose of using a conversation stack is so you can associate images and topics that will smoothly continue an open ended conversation with someone you don’t know. Ready for the stack?!
- Picture a GIANT shinny golden name plate flying through the air.
- Use this image to get their name and help you remember it. Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat themselves if you didn’t hear it clearly.
- Picture the GIANT golden name plate landing on the front door of a big pink house.
- This is where you want to ask the person about where they live or grew up.
- Now picture kids coming out of the windows on tricycles.
- This part of your stack is to prompt you to ask about their kids or family if they have one.
- These kids have great big work gloves on their hands.
- The work gloves prompt you to ask about what they do for work.
- Under the arm of the hand with the great big work glove is the wing of an airplane.
- The airplane prompts you to ask about their travels. Do they travel for work? Where do they vacation? Have they ever been out of the country? Etc.
- The airplane has tennis racquets for propellers!
- The tennis racquets represent hobbies, sports and other interests.
- Finally you visualize a bright blinking light on the tail of the airplane!
- The bright blinking light symbolizes that moment where the person you talk to lights up! This is when you know you have them. They are ready to talk, and talk passionately about something you’ve brought up in your stack.
Now you are fully-armed with your conversation stack and ready to be a networking champion! When your conversation ends it is a good move to have a business card or leave them with some way to contact you in the future and hopefully follow up the great conversation.
If you have any questions about the conversation stack, leave a comment below or visit www.dalecarnegie.com, they’re the professionals I was talking about.