Everyone hates BS conversations.
Well, not everyone. But having meaningful conversations with people that you just met for the first time is hard. It’s actually the reason that most people don’t like meeting new people.
Think about it. The last time you met someone new, what did you learn about that person? Where they’re from? What they do?
Meeting people for the first time doesn’t have to be the cookie-cutter dialogue we’ve invented for ourselves. Life is too short for meaningless conversations with people that we aren’t going to connect with. With a few tweaks to how you interact with people that you aren’t close with, you will be able to connect with people in a meaningful way in no time.
Implicit in connecting with people is valuing that person. The truth is that everyone is more interesting and deep than we initially think. That barista serving you an iced coffee? She probably is interested in philosophy, too. That person in your office you always say “hi” to but never go past “how was your weekend?” probably listens to similar music.
So how do we break through?
You played adult league soccer this weekend. Cool. Who cares? Obviously you do, and your friends that played as well. But how do you communicate this in a way that makes other people care about what you’re saying?
The first step in connecting with people is to take the conversation (not all, but a lot more than we’re normally doing) to an emotional level. As the psychologist joke goes, “how did that make you feel?”
Try to consciously use words that people can relate to. Besides “fun, exciting, etc.” what emotional adjectives can you use to describe your day when people ask?
Person 1: “So what’d you do this weekend?”
Person 2: * Face lights up * “I played soccer this weekend and it was exhilarating! I haven’t run that much in a long time!”
Person 1: “So what’d you do this weekend?”
Person 2: * Monotone with crickets * “I played soccer this weekend. It was cool.”
Likewise, when people are telling you about their day or weekend, try to draw the conversation to an emotional level. Maybe respond with “Wow, surfing! That sounds really relaxing!” and then you’ll be free to respond with your own relaxing thing that you like to do.
The funny thing about engaging conversation is that people rarely connect on the details of their lives for the first time. People don’t care about where you are from, what you do, and every other question that people ask. They want to connect on an emotional level!
The good thing is that, emotionally, most of us are pretty similar. This makes it a lot easier to connect if you start thinking about conversations on an emotional level.
Along the lines of connecting with people, asking questions is a great way to start. The thing is, most people do this horribly wrong. People either ask boring questions that don’t really engage the person that they’re trying to connect with or they ask intimate questions in an uncomfortable way.
The way to ask interesting questions without freaking people out is to lead in with a confession of your curiosity. I’ll explain.
* Leans in and in an intimate voice * “You know, I’ve been meaning to ask you where you got your jacket. I think it’s awesome!”
* Normal Voice *“Where’d you buy your jacket?”
Confess your curiosity! Lead in with “I’ve always wondered what…”, “I’ve been meaning to ask…” , and “It’s been on my mind recently that…”, you are expressing your genuineness with people in a way that is allowing them to be open with you. It almost, for them, feels like they are giving you a secret.
By leading in with a confession of your curiosity, you engage the person in a much more subtle way that allows them to be honest and share information with you that they probably wouldn’t have if you just asked them straight off of the bat.
Be Vulnerable (Share Something About Yourself!)
This last one is easy, but people rarely do it! People are more likely to trust someone that shares something negative about him or herself, and by revealing something small about yourself you are prompting the other person to do the same thing.
Admitting that a situation can be embarrassing, or that you are at an event by yourself, or even that you might not know exactly what you are talking about makes people appreciate you and your position even more. You become a likable underdog character.
Most people reserve sharing information about themselves to their friends and family, but if you can be (selectively) open with people that you just met, they are more likely to do the same with you. Share an embarrassing piece of information and you will be connecting with the other person in no time!
Starting conversations is easy. Connecting with people is an art – but it’s the most valuable part of meeting new people. It turns acquaintances and people you just meet into friends and deepens relationships.
So, you have a little homework. The next time you meet someone new, focus on either connecting emotionally, ask more interesting questions, or share something vulnerable. Only do one, though. You will get better with practice.
Let us know how it goes in the comments below!