Imagine for a moment it’s a Saturday afternoon in Washington, DC. Instead of driving in traffic you decide to take the metro to explore the city. While on the metro, you find yourself sitting next to an older woman.
- You start by saying “Hello” and smiling. (You’re looking for a “Hello” and a smile in return) as she does the same.
- Then you say, “I don’t usually ride the metro, but today is a great day. So, what brings you to the metro today?”
- She says, “Well, I usually take it to go to work, but today I’m going to meet my grandson from New York.”
Most people will say that’s nice, and move to another topic, never realizing she gave them plenty to talk about in that single sentence.
The issue most people have is thinking ahead in a conversation never fully listening to the person’s answer in the first place and fail to build rapport at all
If you want to be a great conversationalist I recommend using a technique in the book, First Impressions for the Business Professional – Why Some of Us Excel and Most of Us Fail and making it a habit. They call this technique “Time Active Listening”.
Here’s how it works: When you ask a question, become 100% focused what they are saying, listening for things you can build on in the conversation.
This shows you are interested in what they are saying, and that you care.
In the example of the woman sitting next to you, her replied gave you three major topics you can build on and show you’re interested in hearing more about her immediately.
Here are some questions you can ask her based on her reply:
- Work (She takes the metro to work)
- Where do you work?
- How did you get involved in that field?
- Grandson (She’s going to see her grandson)
- What are your plans with your grandson today?
- What’s the most interesting experience you’ve had with him?
- Family from New York (Her grandson is from New York)
- How did your family end up in New York?
- What’s been your favorite experience in New York?
As you can see, you could have built an entire conversation based on her initial reply. While open-ended questions start a conversation, you must actively listen for key information they share and keep building on the conversation while smoothly transition from one topic to another, focusing on the other person. Always focus on the other person and what is being said, not on yourself.
Key Lesson: Time Active Listening shows you are immediately interested in what the other person is saying as you build a great business first impression.
Checkout this free online book Build Rapport in Business – The Definitive Guide