Getting the conversation started | E-Neighborhood Advisor
We’ve all been there. Standing in the awkward silence when meeting someone new, trying to get a conversation started. Most of resort to, “So, what do you do?”
But according to the Harvard Business Review, that question might not be the best way to build rapport with someone else. In fact, it may be best to avoid talking about work entirely.
Research findings from the world of network science and psychology suggests that we tend to prefer and seek out relationships where there is more than one context for connecting with the other person. Sociologists refer to these as multiplex ties, connections where there is an overlap of roles or affiliations from a different social context.
Which brings us back to the problem of using “So, what do you do?” as your opener.
Assuming you’re already at a work-related networking event or meeting another person in a work context, the question quickly sets a boundary around the conversation that the other person is now a “work” contact. It’s possible you might discover another commonality and build a multiplex tie, but it’s far less likely to happen in that conversation.
So, what do you ask? Mantelligence offers a whopping 253 questions to spark a conversation broken into categories like “first date,” “icebreakers” and even “weird.” You can find them here: www.mantelligence.com/questions-to-ask/.
Here is their list of 11 best conversation topics:
1. Where do you like to go when you eat out?
2. Do you like to cook?
3. Could you live without the internet?
4. Most memorable birthday?
5. What would your perfect day be like?
6. When are you happiest?
7. What’s on your bucket list?
8. Do you have any trips coming up?
9. What’s something you could teach me about?
10. What is your favorite hobby?
11. Do you have/have you ever had any pets?
Regardless of which question you choose, the important thing is to ask a question open-ended enough to allow others to select non-work answers if they choose. Doing so will increase the chances that you didn’t just turn a stranger into a new contact on your phone, but that you actually made a new friend.