How to Spark Thrilling Conversations

Brown_arrow_21 Posted by Nathan Parcells on
Jul. 19, 2012

Start A Conversation, InternsYou may be wondering, “what does starting a conversation have to do with Mastering Summer Internships?” By now, we’ve already discussed the value of networking, but we haven’t yet discussed how networking is something you can do at all times. Have you ever considered that the people waiting in line with you to get a burrito, sitting beside you on the bus, or walking beside you on the street could have the potential to lead you to your next job, teach you about something new, or be the connection that leads to the success of your summer?

We’re constantly within inches of rich gold mines all around us, but we rarely have the courage to start these conversations.  We’re afraid the person beside us will think, This guy’s crazy.  The best way to address this fear is to ask how we react when someone tries to start a conversation with us. Are we annoyed or delightfully surprised? I know I’m usually overjoyed when someone starts a conversation with me. In an environment where everyone seems to have blinders on, it’s like being offered a sip of cool water when someone starts talking to you. Of course, there will occasionally be someone who will give you the cold shoulder, but I bet even they are touched somewhere deep in their heart that’s three sizes too small.

Now that we’ve busted that myth, let’s dig into how you can start a conversation.

1) Ask them for help or advice. This will make them feel valuable by giving them an opportunity to share their knowledge. Some examples of this are when you’re standing in line wondering what to order at a restaurant, ask the person next to you, “Excuse me. What do you recommend ordering here?” While standing in line for the bus or subway, ask, “Does this bus go to Mission St.? I just wanted to make sure.”  It doesn’t matter if you already knew the answer; your goal in this initial stage is simply to break the wall of silence between you.

2) Start with the basics. Let them know you’re interested in getting to know them by ask them where they work, for example. You can also mention something they’re wearing. If they have a Boston Red Sox cap on, ask, “Are you a big Red Sox fan?”

3) As I’ve mentioned before, find their passion point. The best part of a conversation is when you see the light spark in someone’s eyes as they start to tell you about what they love. Their passion point could be their job, their family, or their favorite hobby.

4) Satisfy your curiosity. Reflect on what you truly want to know about the person you’re talking to. What are they an expert on that you’d like to learn more about?

5) Ask questions that revolve around them. If they talk 90% of the time, that’s great! Studies prove that people love talking about themselves.

6) Names! Ask them for their name and offer them a firm handshake. I’ve found that it’s better to ask someone their name once the conversation has been rolling for a while. If you introduce yourself initially, you can then experience a lull in the conversation because there’s no bridge from that topic. Also, once you know someone’s name there’s more of an expectation that you’ll keep in touch.  For tips on remembering people’s names, click here.

7) Enjoy the conversation. Don’t focus on impressing who you’re talking to. You are your true self when you’re having a good time, so just smile and appreciate the conversation you dove into.

8) Keep connecting with them.  Add them on Facebook and LinkedIn. Send them a quick message mentioning how much you enjoyed meeting them.

You could meet someone who leads you to your future job or you could meet your new best friend just by starting up a conversation with the person standing right beside you.  Getting in the habit of starting conversations with the people all around you will serve you throughout life, and I guarantee it will make waiting for your burrito much more enjoyable.

***This is an installment from the series, Mastering Summer Internships. These articles will show how to make the most of your summer internship experience and be a rockstar intern in your company. Click here or enter your email below to receive weekly updates with the latest installments of Mastering Summer Internships.

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