Deeper Conversations: How to Connect with Others
Getting to know people can be painfully awkward. We have a laundry list of basic questions to ask people, but if you don't naturally click, it can be hard to figure out how to connect with someone. It's easy to talk about superficial things, but our conversations, relationships, and lives will be better if we can cut to the heart of who we are.
If there is one thing you should remember as you try to connect with new people, it’s this: People love to talk about themselves.
We love to share our stories, our thoughts, our opinions, and our lame jokes. Some might call it selfish, but I think it’s a symptom of how we were created. We were created to be in a close, intimate relationship with God. We were created to be known, through and through.
Unfortunately, sin got in the way, and now we spend a lot of our time feeling isolated and unwanted. For me, those lies can escalate when I’m feeling awkward at a party or trying to get to know someone. Connecting with new people can be hard, especially after those initial, “so…where are you from?” questions end.
As you are meeting people out on campus this fall, and out in the real world for the rest of your life, remember that you can play a huge part in helping people feel loved, wanted, and known. All you have to do is get them to talking! And trust me, it’s a lot easier than you think.
Shy Away From Questions that Give a One Word Answer.
Sometimes, we ask people questions and it seems like we get a door slammed in our face. Think of a mom asking her teenager, "how was school today?" 99.9% of the time she gets an answer like "good," or "alright," or a grunt and a sigh.
Questions like, "where are you from," or "what are you majoring in" produce similar one word answers (though I would be worried if you asked someone what they're majoring in and they grunted at you). The first step to having deeper, more meaningful conversations is to shy away from close-ended questions.
Instead, Ask Open-Ended Questions.
The best way to get someone talking is to ask them an open-ended question. This type of question requires more thought, and therefore more words to answer. The answer could be a list, a couple of sentences, or maybe your question will be so good that they'll answer it in the form of multiple haikus.
This is the most important step in any conversation. Most of the time people sit around and think about what they're going to say next in a conversation instead of truly listening to the other person's answer. Don't do this. Instead, really listen to what they're saying. Take note of what stands out to you, and then comment on it, share a similar experience, or ask a question.
Tell Me More.
Don't panic if you accidentally ask a close-ended question. You can turn that around by asking, "Why," or saying, "Tell me a little more about that." These two questions work miracles and can help launch your conversations into meaningful territory.
It's Not an Interview.
Above all, remember that this is not an interview! The best conversations are when both parties are exchanging ideas. So don't quiz them on every detail of their life. Relax, share life with one another, and focus on the other person.
What other ideas do you have for getting to know people? We'd love to hear from you!