We meet new people all the time: at conferences, networking events, on plane journeys, at gatherings and at parties. Some of those people we'll never see again and some of them will become friends, partners or colleagues for years and even a lifetime. But however long you end up knowing someone new, the first three minutes you spend with them will tell you more than you'll learn about them over the following decades. Here are five vital things you learn within three minutes of meeting someone for the first time.
1. You Learn What They Do... And Whether They Like What They Do
The first question we ask when we meet a stranger is usually: "So what do you do?" It's a great question and I've heard some fascinating answers. I even assembled a bunch of those answers into a couple of books filled with replies from entrepreneurs and philanthropists and all sorts of amazing, regular folk. Everyone has a story to tell and that question starts it.
The answer to that question always tells us the person's job, but we learn something else too. The enthusiasm with which they answer also tells us whether they like what they do. We can see whether they're content, whether they're looking to move on and whether they're hungry for a change if the right opportunity comes along.
The first question we ask a stranger tells us whether they're now in a strong enough position to help us or whether they're looking for us to help them first.
2. You Learn How You Can Help Each Other
We all have the ability to help each other. The help you receive might not come immediately. You'll often have to build the relationship first, develop trust and give before you receive. But that first conversation about your new friend's work will start to give you ideas about how you might be working together in the future.
It happens all the time. They'll say something and you'll immediately think of someone who could help them or someone who could benefit from their help. It's a short step from there to benefiting from the return of the favor.
3. You Learn What Interests Them the Most
A conversation with a stranger might begin with work but it soon spreads into interests outside the office. You learn whether they're interested in sports or soap operas, their grandchildren or their boat. Wherever the conversation drifts quickly reveals what makes them tick outside work. That opens up whole new areas of potential connection. Express an interest in their interests and you'll start to create a bond.
The process from stranger to a business relationship is "like me, know me, trust me, buy from me." Not all relationships have to develop into that final step but as the conversation moves from work to fun, you'll have an opportunity to travel from knowledge to affinity.
4. You'll Learn Whether You'll Be Friends, Partners or Strangers
I meet hundreds of new people every year. I meet them at the events I speak at, in the hotel lobbies where I stay and on the planes I take to reach those events. Some of the people I've met have become close friends. Some of those friends have also become powerful business partners. Most have remained strangers. We might have shared a conversation over orange juice in business class but at the end of the journey, we went our separate ways.
You can tell within minutes of meeting someone which of those fates the new relationship will have. You can tell by the enthusiasm with which you converse, the degree to which you share an interest, the spark of an idea that you both share. You don't have to state it. You'll feel it right away, and every result is fine.
5. You'll Learn What You Need to Do to Build the Relationship
Relationships take work to build and support, and that work requires a first step. Within the first three minutes of meeting someone new, you'll know whether that first step needs to be an introduction, a proposal or even just an invitation for a coffee and a further discussion. You'll feel that too--and you'll be on your way towards turning a first meeting into what could be a long and valuable relationship.