It’s summer in the Pacific Northwest, and the sparkling waters, blue skies, snowcapped mountains and extended sunlight beckon us outdoors. As we head to the water for a day trip, hike, visit a summer festival or start the grill for a backyard barbecue, we tend to bring our family, friends and colleagues with us. Now is our time for recreation and connection.
What do you do to build great connections with the people you’re hanging out with?
Did you expect me to ask a question? Questions shift the energy, don’t they? And that’s the point. When you spend time with others, do you tend to ask questions or drop into a topic you’re interested in and start talking? In general, we build better connections when we arrive with a healthy curiosity and ask questions – in other words, when we take a genuine interest in the other person.
Have you ever rolled your eyes when preparing for a family gathering? Perhaps you’re thinking about what you already know about them. What if you consider what you don’t know about them? This actually puts you in an elite group of people.
George Bernard Shaw said, “The only sane person I know is my tailor. He measures me anew every time he sees me.”
What if you arrive with a few questions that uncover the other person’s interests? Would that a more interesting approach?
A number of years ago, I spent a few days snow skiing near Lake Tahoe with one of my mentors. A musician we both knew was also visiting the area, and he invited us to dinner. During our drive to the restaurant, Mary and I shared our experiences with this musician. We both admired the way he drew his audience into the stories he wove through his music and the brilliant way he choreographed images to his music. Drawn into the story, I was about to add my experience of his music when Mary shifted the conversation. “What are three or four questions you’d like to ask him?” I paused. Nothing came to mind. She offered a question – about his brother. Then she asked another, and it spurred my curiosity. What would I like to know?
By the time we parked the car in front of the restaurant, both of us had 3 or 4 questions. She said, “Once we ask a question or two, the evening will just flow. We won’t need all of our questions. You’ll see.” And she was right. We had a wonderful, easy and fun evening filled with laughter and sweet surprises.
That evening I experienced the joy that erupts from thoughtful and well-placed questions. So I bring a few thoughtful questions to gatherings with family and friends, and it’s made a tremendous difference.
Asking questions works well not only in your personal life, but also in business. The entrepreneur or small business owner who’s curious about people often discovers a need that will turn them into a customer, client or friend. Thoughtful questions pinpoint the areas of frustration so the business owner can pinpoint their solutions for clients or customers. When talking with other business owners, questions reveal areas of mutual interest and the potential to collaborate.
Have you ever attended a networking event and wondered what to talk about? A few thoughtful questions makes the experience easier and way more fun. What would you like to know about someone when you meet them? Rather than the same-o, same-o, why not discover what they’re most passionate about? Learn about their journey to success – or what they’re interested in now. You can ask questions like – “knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you started? Or what’s on your reading list? Or how did you get started doing what you do? The possibilities are endless.
And one great question is never enough.