Getting back into the groove of small talk might seem like a terrifying ask.
We’ve spent so much time on Zooms and Meetups where the event or meeting starts pretty quickly to the time we sign-on. Even networking events are conducted with a “ready set go!” mentality.
How do we get back to getting to know people?
Studies out of Harvard show that small talk is best served by question asking and answering – the reason being that you’re showing interest in another person, getting them talking, and hopefully listening and adding to the conversation. But what questions are the ones that truly help you get to know someone?
Certain questions will help you learn more about another person, whether it’s professional or personal – but before we start to dig into those questions, a few things to keep in mind:
Whatever question from this list you use, make sure you are truly interested in the answer. Any time you ask a question “because you have to” or because you think it’s the right thing to do, you’re going to end up not caring about the answer, not listening, and just asking for the sake of asking! Ask questions you care about.
Listen to the answer. This seems obvious – for some reason it is not. If you ask a question, don’t just wait for your turn to talk, actually listen to the answer! You’re asking because you care, right? So listen!
Don’t ask anything that you’re not ready to answer. If you ask a question, be ready to offer your answer. Shared vulnerability is real, and a way to build trust and understanding between two people.
And now for the questions…
What is your favorite show/movie and why?
The first part sounds normal right? Everyone has a show or movie they love – and that’s the point! When you ask questions like “Who is your hero?” or “What is your dream?” or “What do you want to do when you grow up?” you might create anxiety if the person you’re asking doesn’t have one! The “and why” allows for more information – and if it feels too confrontational, you can use any variations of “and tell me more” or “and why that is” or “and what makes you say that.” Any of those “tell me more!” requests lead to more information and a deeper conversation.
What makes you laugh the most? (and of course, and why?)
Joy is amazing. I don’t like to know what frightens people – I want to know where your joy comes from. If a person knows where their joy, happiness, and laughter comes from, and can talk about it, that’s the kind of self-aware person I want to keep talking to.
If money was no object, what would you do all day?
Along the same lines of joy, seeing what someone would do if they weren’t at work (remember, not everyone loves their jobs!) tells you SO much about a person. You’ll see if they love people, things, helping, volunteer work, activism, cooking, traveling – you name it! Something you’re probably noticing about all of these questions by now – success is built in! These questions allow for folks to get as deep – or superficial! – as they want.
What’s an ideal weekend for you?
Remember, you’re trying to get to know someone. If you’re tapping into good vibes, joy, and things that make people happy, you’ll create a level of trust and vulnerability. Too often we want to jump from not knowing someone to being close, and that jump is too much! Ease into that safe space with questions about joy – there will be a time for vulnerability!