In a recent conversation, a leader mentioned that he knew it was important to create a tighter connection with another leader, and he wasn’t sure where to begin. Sure, he knew who this other leader was, he just didn’t know what was important to her, or how they could work together effectively. The relationship wasn’t as strong as he wanted before they started to work on a major upcoming project.
Really connecting with people can be tough. We may not know much about them or what they do, and it can feel awkward. Meeting new people and building a connection with them is something we can be 100 percent sure of doing at work—whether it’s a new team member, supplier, or manager. Often, how well we connect with that new person is important to our work.
So what to do? If you know something is inevitable and important, you can just prepare for it and work to get better at it. Below are five questions that you can use with anyone you meet, anywhere. Download this and keep it on your phone for review before you walk into that new project meeting, or before you walk down the hall to meet the new guy on the team.
In addition to the questions, here are a few helpful guidelines to make this conversation easier for everyone.
Smile & Breathe
You’re having a conversation, not proposing or accepting an award, so take the pressure off yourself. The other person may be a bit uncomfortable too, so work on smiling and breathing so you feel better, which can help them too. Remember all the nice people you know and that you didn’t know at one point.
Share About You
Be sure to really listen to what people say. Also, share your own story and information. If you don’t reveal anything about yourself, it can seem that you’re being protective or conducting an interrogation.
Ask Follow-up Questions
When you really listen to understand, there are an almost limitless number of places to go. Be interested in what they are sharing and show that by asking questions. Work on questions that aren’t answered with yes/no, since that will help the conversation go much further.
It’s understandable to be a bit nervous when having a real conversation with someone new. We want to make a good impression, to get to know the other person, and to get past the butterflies in our chest. Play with these questions to create ones you feel comfortable with. You may have one set of questions for work and one you use with family at Thanksgiving (for that cousin twice removed you only see every four years). Let us know what really works for you, in social or professional settings.
The important part is that you’re getting ready for something you know is going to happen. That helps you feel better, relax into a smoother flow, helping the other person relax too. That usually makes anything easier.