All it took was one question-- eight words exactly-- to get a man I've never met before to tell me his life story. At first, he was at a table next talking to one of his good friends about a restaurant he owns.
And then five minutes later he was sitting at my table, telling me about his career, his many high-end restaurants, his near-fatal car accident that changed his life, and the restaurants he recently opened. He was well dressed and well-spoken, whereas I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans. He had no idea who I am. And I'm positive that him talking to me is going to make him late for something important.
Even though his story was interesting, one might wonder why is he was telling me, a stranger, such personal information. And how? How did I end up getting a complete stranger to open up to me in such a short time frame?
He didn't just come up and walk over to me and start talking. I actually interrupted him with his friend and asked him a simple question that I was genuinely curious to know the answer to. And this one question triggered him to tell me things that not many people know about him.
"How did you get into the restaurant business?"
Now, this might seem like a normal question, and in many senses, it is. But there's something specifically about this question, in that specific moment, that made him spill his guts and start the beginning of a great relationship over the past few years.
Here are two ways I ask better questions.
1. Listen carefully to ask the right question.
I'll admit that I'm not the best listener in the world. I dose off sometimes, and I every now and then I have to ask someone to ask the same question again because I wasn't listening.
But I am good at identifying certain words or phrases that could allow us to have a deeper conversation. If I find someone talking about something related to something they've been working on for a long time, or something they're really passionate about, I'll dig deeper into it.
I'll say things like "Tell me more about that," or, "How did you get involved in this?" I found that asking questions that allow them to reflect on their life or their entrepreneurial journey, the conversation gets very interesting, very quick.
So, listen carefully to words or sentences that could allow you to dive deeper.
2. Establish what you have in common.
There is a difference between curious and nosy. Nosy is when you ask questions that are none of your business or come from out of nowhere. Ask a nosy question, and you'll potentially turn off the person you're talking to.
What I like to do in many situations is to establish why I'm like them in many ways. I do this by telling them personal stories. For example, if they are a manager of many people or teams, I'll tell them about how I used to do the same thing, and the struggles or successes I had doing it. By telling them, I am like them, it lowers their guard and makes them feel comfortable to open up to me.
So, the next time you want to build a better relationship with someone and want to ask great questions, listen to what they're saying very closely, and establish a common bond between you and them. These are the foundations for asking better questions and building deeper relationships.