Conversations with strangers can go one of two ways. Some are unyieldingly boring—an exchange of information in which neither side reveals more about themselves than could be gleaned from LinkedIn. But in some interactions there’s an alchemy at work, the meeting of two minds sparking a change in both during which something new—less tangible than gold, but nonetheless beautiful—is created.
The question is: how do you avoid the dull exchanges, which can be exhausting and depressing, especially if your work involves meeting a lot of people? Cassie Werber from Quartz offers us a tip for making the most out of conversations with strangers.
To avoid boring conversations, the most important thing you must do is set an intention. In this case, that intention might be avoiding routine, conventional questions and instead, using whatever you find genuinely interesting as your guide throughout a conversation. Werber offers up a good example. At a dinner between two psychology professors, the temptation for her was to ask about the other’s research. But this information is already available online. Instead, Werber asked how their findings informed their parenting choices, because, as a new parent, this information was much more interesting. From there the conversation could grow in a non-typical way.
Werber stresses that this tip might be particularly good for introverts. For extroverts, a good way to have better conversations with strangers is to ask questions and simply listen. Because as much as you might enjoy voicing your own opinion, we get more out of the conversation by discovering what others truly think and feel.
This story was one of the best from 2019, and we are happy to include it in our “12 Days of Optimism” as we get ready to welcome 2020!