Have you ever wondered how some people can confidently stroll into any room, approach the first person they see, and quickly jump into deep conversations?
They’re able to laugh, engage, and have fun. They ooze confidence and charisma. Other people are dying to meet them and hanging on their every word.
As an introvert, I’ve always been deeply fascinated by those individuals—the ones who can talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere—because that’s something I struggled with for most of my life.
In fact, for many years, most conversations I tried to start would go something like this:
Me: “Hi! How are you?”
Them: “Good. You?”
Me: “Good!…[awkward silence]…Well, it was nice seeing you…”
Then, the conversation would fizzle out, and I’d scurry away tail-between-my-legs discouraged.
But rather than just giving up and saying I’m not a “people person,” I decided to study some of the best conversationalists around.
And no, I didn’t seek advice from smooth-talking salespeople, charming old chaps, or even polished politicians.
Instead, I turned to a rather unusual and unlikely source for conversational inspiration: kids!
Now you may be thinking, “Wait a minute! Why would an adult look to children for conversational advice?”
Here’s why: think about the way you were as a child, especially the way you approached meeting new people.
It’s likely that you would talk to anyone about anything. You’d willingly walk up and introduce yourself, and you certainly NEVER worried about saying the wrong things.
In fact, as kids, we have to be told “not to talk to strangers” because otherwise we’d inch toward everyone in sight.
So what changed?
For starters as kids, we had no reason not to be confident. We were unaware of awkwardness so we weren’t afraid to screw up.
We allowed ourselves to play and have fun.
But more important than any those things is that as kids we had a burning curiosity, and we willingly expressed it.
We wanted to understand the world around us. That made us hungry to know more.
That made us ask great questions.
And that truly is the secret to an amazing social life and having great conversations: become insanely curious about people.
Because when we’re genuinely curious about other people’s lives, we engage with them, we pay attention to details, and we make them feel important.
It’s seems so simple, but most people don’t do this. The go-to for most of us is to jump into generic questions like:
“What do you do?”
“Where are you from?”
“The weather has been crazy, huh?”
And these generic questions get generic responses. They don’t show a deeper level of interests.
Instead, it’s just a formality we perform out of routine.
On the other hand, great questions cut through. They get to the heart of the matter.
If you’re around a child for even a few minutes, you’ll see the power of genuine curiosity. They ask so many questions you can’t help but to engage with them!
Here are three of the most powerful questions kids consistently ask that quickly tap into people’s deepest desires, inner-most thoughts, and show a genuine interest in the other person.
Don’t be a afraid to tap into your child-like state of mind and make your conversations fun and interesting!
Now, it’s okay to talk to strangers so use these questions to help supercharge your social life and make conversations oh-so-much easier.
1. What’s the meaning behind that?
Kids ask this all the time. They see something unique about someone (maybe their shirt or a hat), and they ask about it. As adults we rarely give this a shot. We mostly just keep to ourselves.
The reality is asking this question not only shows the other person that you’re paying attention to details about them but it also gives them a rare opportunity to share a story with you.
Maybe they bought that strange hat when they were traveling through a foreign country? Or maybe they got that tattoo when they were in the military a few years back? Or just maybe that t-shirt they’re wearing (with the odd logo) is their favorite band and they got it at a concert a week back?
You never what stories people have, until you ask.
And this is one of the easiest ways to get stories out of people. Ask them to tell you the story behind anything that interests you and watch the interesting conversations unfold.
Kids are great at asking this question. Many times they’ll ask why, dozens of times in row, giving the person unlimited chances to speak.
Now, you won’t want to go that far…but using this tip in your conversations is a great way to kickstart a deeper, more meaningful discussions.
All of us have a reason why we do things, but few people ever ask us why we do what we do.
Most people are so caught up in their own day-to-day lives that they never consider asking this question. But asking “why” is one of easiest ways to open people up and engage with them.
Try a few of these questions:
- “Why did you choose to become an ____?”
- “Why are you interested in that?”
- “Why do you like that restaurant over this one?”
Asking why lets the other person speak. It lets them share their unique opinion. And it validates their decisions and thoughts.
Why don’t you give it a shot? 🙂
3. Can you tell me more?
Every one of us has something that we’re passionate about, but the people we see everyday (our spouses, friends and colleagues) don’t always want to hear about it, again and again.
Surprisingly in this super-connected world we live in today, most of us don’t have anyone to talk to about the things we really care about. And most of the time, we’d desperately like to share our thoughts and passions with the world.
So when you ask someone to tell you more, you’re giving them the greatest gift of all: attention and time. These things can’t be bought. Most conversations are quick to end, but this digs deeper and let’s real meaningful ideas unfold.
Now, that you’re an adult it’s okay to talk to strangers. So go out, tap into your inner child, and use these questions to meet new people.
Conversations are supposed to be fun. Kids naturally know a thing or two about having a blast. Apply their curiosity to your adult conversations and everyone you meet is in for a treat!
You’re not going to let these kids be better conversationalists than you…are you?
Robert Allen is a communications and influence coach who runs the blog KickstartYourDreamLife.com. He helps introverted young professionals be more charismatic so they can get the recognition they deserve for their hard work (from their bosses and colleagues) without being loud or extroverted by showing them how to skillfully talk to anyone with ABSOLUTE confidence and without fear of ever running out of things to say.