Giving new customers, partners, or co-workers a good first impression matters. To become an engaging person in conversations with those you want to influence, the first rule to remember is this: It's not about you.
The best way to get business or networking conversations off to a great start is to put the focus on the other person. To make these interactions more interesting, we need to be mindful of the fact that every person we encounter, like us, has a story to tell.
By giving them the attention first, you'll have a clear edge. People are naturally wired and looking for connection and positive affirmation; they want to be seen and heard. They want to share their stories.
And it all starts with asking the right questions. Your first priority is to kill the small talk and ban questions like "What do you do?" and "Where are you from?" (if you've just met them) in favor of great conversational starters.
Try these questions
Research has confirmed that superficial small talk does not build relationships. But most of us are guilty of asking questions that lead nowhere beyond the small talk, instead of the type of questions that will trigger deeper conversations. Here are 10 to consider, with the first one worthy of its own explanation:
1. What's your story?
This open-ended question is bound to trigger something interesting after the other person gets over the initial shock that you asked it. By opening up a conversation in this manner, you've given them access to speak from their hearts and share their life's journeys, dreams, and goals
Here are the other nine to take for a spin at your next business one-on-one:
2. What absolutely excites you right now?
3. What was the highlight of your day (or week)?
4. What gets you up in the morning?
5. What is your whole reason for existing--your "why"?
6. What's the most important thing I should know about you?
7. Why did you choose your career or line of business?
8. What is one of your most defining moments in life?
9. What's the best thing that's happened to you this year?
10. When's the last time you failed spectacularly at something?
Keep in mind, the pattern to asking these questions should be obvious: It's making the conversation about the other person. This selfless act of putting the spotlight on someone else makes you the more engaging person in the conversation. And that can go a long way in a budding business or work relationship.