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Stop asking “how are you” if you are looking to have a meaningful conversation

Stop asking ‘how are you?’ Harvard researchers say this is what successful people do when making small talk says  Gary Burnison in a CNBC interview (CNBC.com) 


By asking inane questions like “how are you” or “what do you do” is a lost opportunity and meaningless exchange with zero connection.


So what are some tactics to help you to be perceived as a charismatic and interesting person?


Here are six tactics to having a meaningful conversation:


1. Use the A.C.T. trick


Starting with small talk is key 


  • A – Be authentic 
  • C – Connect – start with something you have in common 
  • T – Topic that will give a taste of you 


2. Be in the moment and observe your surroundings – do your homework 


Open your eyes before you open your mouth. 


Find something to focus on in your surroundings 


At an exhibition, ask what their favorite painting was.


Ask about someone’s hat, shoes or jewelry that they are wearing – it sometimes makes a statement about the person 


In a person’s office – ask about the piece of art on the wall, a quirky gadget or family picture on their desk,  There’s bound to be something that will spark small talk and help lead the conversation into unique follow-up questions.


“Open your eyes before you open your mouth.”

-Gary Burnison, CEO, Korn Ferry


Let’s say you’re talking to the CEO of a large, iconic company who is about to retire, and you noticed a row of empty boxes along the wall of the CEO’s office. You might start with the question, 


“How hard is it for you to leave this job?” 


When going to a forum, do your research on the people in the room and find out their passions 


This will lead to a much deeper and more emotionally revealing discussion, and it never would’ve happened had you not noticed those boxes.



3. Share some news (that actually happened)


At our BBG forums, we go around the room and ask each person to say one interesting thing that recently happened in their lives. 


If you have “news,” share it: “my baby had a baby” or “My baby took her first step!” 


If you are meeting someone – share something meaningful that happened to you .


People actually do want to know more about others, especially if they both work at the same company.


As a result of that momentary sharing, you’ve allowed everyone to feel more personally and genuinely connected with each other.


The key is to be genuine


4. It’s not just what you say

No matter what or how much you say, your tone of voice, facial expression and eye contact will broadcast so much more.


In person, look at the other person when you speak, not at the conference table or the wall. 


On the phone, smile — it will make your voice sound warmer. 


It’s not just what you say, but how you say it, that will help others connect with you.


5. Listen 

People love to talk about themselves, so be a great listener


Ask leading questions – and LISTEN 


Be present during the conversation.

Focus on the other person 

Show that you care 

Ask leading questions 


  • Listen 2 ears one mouth 
  • In the moment /interesting
  • Small talk – have something interesting to say that’s relevant and engaging 
  • Trust 
  • Empathy – put yourself in the other person’s shoes 
  • Names – remember persons name – make them feel they are important 

6. Make proper introductions 

Introduce people with ease, making them feel important.


Be sure to remember names 


In addition to announcing names, offer a piece of information about each person, or a shared interest, thereby facilitating a conversation. 

Posted on March 9, 2019

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