How To Connect With Anyone You Just Met With 5 Questions

All my life, I’ve began asking myself, “Whom can I connect?” I am naturally hard-wired to see the world as a web of relationships and I get excited by the prospect of connecting people within my web. Not because they will like each other, but rather because of what they will create together. The mantra I operate in is “1 + 1 makes 3. Or 30. Or 300. ”

Entering a new career transition as an entrepreneur and leadership coach/consultant, I am constantly finding ways to build connections and find ways on how I can be for them and against them.

I came across five types of questions that have helped me to improve my emotional connectivity with people. I hope you’ll find the following helpful in building your relational intelligence.

1. Establish Common Ground

Are you able to quickly identify things in which you have in common? Whether that is, your blood type, month you were born, ethnic background, alma mater, organization you work for, hobbies, mutual friends, my number one objective is to start a conversation based something we share in common. This ignites our conversation and helps to take it to the next level. Finding common ground is the lubricator of the relationship engine.

Simply, start looking around. What do you notice in the other person in which you can ask questions to create resonance and commonality? Here’s some examples.

  • “Those are nice looking glasses. Looks exactly like the design I’m looking for. Where can I purchase them?”
  • “It really sucks to wearing a tie when it’s sweltering, isn’t it?”
  • “Isn’t the iPhone 6 so convenient for situations like this?”

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2. Ask Questions the Other Person Wants to Hear

This is second nature to master connectors. They are Jedi-masters when it comes to listening between the lines. They intuitively know what the other person wants to be asked.

Here’s a normal response from an average questioner:

  • Person A: “How did you spend your long-weekend holiday?”
  • Person B: “I visited Hawaii with my family on Friday and had a fantastic time there.”

Now, here’s a normal response from an exceptional questioner:

  • Person A: “How did you spend your long-weekend holiday?”
  • Person B: “I had a three day off-site visit with family. What about you?” 

Did you catch the difference? In the second scenario, Person B intuitively knew that Person A brought up the question because Person A wants to share his/her experience. That’s why Person B gave a general reply and quickly turned around with the same question to Person A. If you really think about it, a lot of the questions people asked are questions they want to be asked.

Here’s more examples:

  • “Honey, did you hear? Our neighbor Jim’s went to Hawaii again.”
  • “Were you involved in student clubs while you were in college?”
  • “What are the best books you are reading?”

In the first question, the person’t isn’t confirming whether you know that Jim went to Hawaii. The question implies a desire, “I want to go to Hawaii too.” In the second question, “the person isn’t really asking for which clubs you’re involved in college, but rather this person wants to share about his/her student club experience during college.” Same logic for the third question. The person is more interested in sharing his thoughts on the best books he is reading. Exceptional connectors intuitively know this because they are always others-focused.

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3. When You Ask, Use “Half Open-ended Questions”

Generally, there’s two type of questions. A closed-ended question and an open-ended question. Here’s an example of these two type of questions:

  • Closed-ended Question: “Is working at your job hard?” (Either you respond with “yes” or “no”)
  • Open-ended Question: “How is working at your job?” (The person can freely respond)

We ask these questions all the time. When we meet people for the first time and ask closed-ended questions, the conversation may abruptly halt and create awkward moments. When you use open-ended questions, the question is so big and abstract that the person responding may have difficulty sharing “how much” information.

Instead, employ the “half open-ended question” method. This is when you create more specificity into the open-ended question method. Here’s a few example:

  • “What’s your favorite thing about working in your current job?”
  • “What’s the hardest thing from taking this class?”
  • “What makes this season the busiest time in life?”

A small thing like adding a bit more specificity can make all the difference.

4.Use Questions to Elicit Interesting Episodes

Master connectors learn from one of the most commonly used interview strategies today: behavioral interviews. Instead of asking “general questions” such as ”

  • “What’s your strength?”
  • “What’s your dream job?”
  • “What’s the most important thing you have learned from your role as a customer service rep?”

A lot of times, these questions are often responded with quite abstract terms. Rather, behavioral interviews focused on specific, concrete examples of the past that demonstrate certain qualities. Here’s a few examples:

  • “Can you tell me about an experience in your current role where your strength came to limelight?”
  • “What’s your current role at work? Tell me a success story of one of your accomplishments this year.”

One caveat is ensuring that you focus on both tact and tone. These questions can often sound intimidating. So, it’s important to sound genuine and interested, not like an interrogator. When you use this method here’s a few examples of what it might sound like in a conversation:

  • “Oh. I see. Interesting. So what specifically happened after that?”
  • “So what happened to that guy after it happened?”

5. Leverage the Power of Research

We live in a world where transparency is the currency of relationship and information is free on the internet. Whether it’s a blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, this creates an opportunity for master connectors to do pre-work to ask the right questions when you meet the person for the first time.

Whether you are preparing for an interview, going out on a date, or preparing for a networking session, I always spend 30 minutes to an hour to really research the person. I immediately think about what do I share in common? Also, I might follow the person beforehand and read their tweets to see what kind of information this person is interested in.

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Question: Which areas do you plan to focus on to upgrade your connection skills?