Relationships: Talking With People You Don’t Know

By Barton Goldsmith
McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

When I’m asked to give a speech in a place I’ve never been, it’s always an interesting and growth-producing experience.

It almost always starts with me getting on an airplane and sitting next to a complete stranger. Sometimes there is good conversation, cards are exchanged, and the flight seems shorter.

Other times, there is only a little chitchat, and even more rarely, there’s no conversation at all, just a silent struggle over who gets the armrest.

Once I’ve landed and made my way to the hotel, there is usually a “meet the speaker” dinner. The one person I will know (but most likely have never actually met) is the person who hired me.

So here I am in a room full of strangers all wondering to themselves, “Who is this guy and does he have anything worth saying?”

The truth is that I feel the same way. Although many would describe me as an extrovert, I am actually a shy one.

In a roomful of people I don’t know and who expect me to be Dr. Personality, getting introduced, shaking hands, and making a little small talk can be a daunting task.

After I give my speech the next morning, it’s a whole different story.

Then everyone knows me, and many will have questions and comments, which makes having a conversation so much easier.

But before that happens, I have to find ways to talk with these folks, making them feel at ease and perhaps even interested in what I have to say.

In situations like this, it helps to have good interviewing skills. Asking the right questions is a great way to help people open up and feel good about meeting you.

When you ask people about themselves, they are usually more than willing to share. Most people appreciate it when you show an interest in their lives.

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