There Are Easy Ways to Break the Ice Personally and Professionally
We have all been there. Whether it is a new neighbor, classmate, colleague at work, or potential romantic interest, you consider the best ways to begin conversation. What questions should you ask when you first meet? Given all of the possible topics you might consider, there are thankfully some fairly easy ways to break the ice.
There Are Questions People Love to Answer
Depending on what type of relationship you are forming, your questions should be both appropriate to ask as well as appealing to answer. Although we cannot get too personal too quickly because people value their privacy, some topics are both safe and satisfying. The beauty of asking someone about something they enjoy talking about is that it affords you plenty of opportunities to follow up.
Subjects to Avoid
There are definitely subjects we should avoid. Studies show these include politics, sex, money, relationships, work, and religion. But that still leaves you plenty of topics to work with. Here are three ideas.
History Has Storytelling Value
Even people who are private about their current address, phone number, or even zip code, are not shy about telling you where they grew up.
“Hometown highlights,” often presented in a positive light with a healthy dose of nostalgia, is both interesting to hear and enjoyable to tell. This topic also affords plenty of opportunity for follow-up questions, and to identify areas of common ground — literally, given the possibility you are from the same area or type of area, which creates bonding through background. People who grew up in a big city versus a rural community can relate to style and pace of life, for example, even when they grew up in different locations.
My Children, Myself
When it comes to getting to know a new friend or acquaintance, the topic of offspring is never off-limits. Other than cases where you know someone has lost a child or has a strained relationship with their children, most people will light up like a Christmas tree if you ask about their family. In fact, most of them will whip out their smartphones before you are even done asking the question. Why tell you when they can show you? As you are becoming dizzy with the scrolling photo gallery slideshow your new acquaintance is displaying, consider the progress you are making building relational rapport.
In addition, not only are children the bright lights in our lives, as extensions of ourselves, their accomplishments also reflect on our own success and self-worth. And that is important, because especially when making first impressions, everyone loves to put their best foot forward.
Travel! Adventure is Meant to be Shared
Budget permitting, whether it is across the world or across town, most people love to travel. And they love to tell you about where they have been. This subject is unique in that discussing a place as opposed to discussing something personal, is pleasurable but usually not private.
Because the adventure of travel appeals to extraverts and introverts alike, you can build rapport without the boundary probing concerns you might have with other topics. Even normally reserved personalities will become animated when sharing what they enjoyed most about ziplining in a rain forest, taking a drive across the country, or even their latest camping trip. Sharing such stories are stimulating to recall, and safe to relate.
The bottom line is that relationship building involves intentional effort, topic selection, and genuine interest. And be ready to reciprocate, because authentic curiosity about others makes them authentically interested in you.
This article was first published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, PhD, is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of “Live with Dr. Wendy” on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Her over 4,500 media appearances include major news outlets including CNN, Fox News Channel, HLN, FOX Business Network, and weekly appearances on Newsmax. She is author of Red Flags (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Reading People (Random House, revision). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin professionally with a rock band. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick’s Reports — More Here.
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