Tag Archives: asking questions

3 Tips on How to Talk to People You Don’t Know

27 Sep

One thing I’ve been blessed with is an absolutely fantastic career.  

One big part of this career over the past 26 years has been having meaningful conversations with clients, potential clients and other people I don’t know very well.  I’m sure there are a lot of people who can say the same thing.

I thought that it might be helpful to jot down some observations + tips for those people who maybe don’t have the opportunity to do this as often as i do.  If there is one thing i hate more than people who walk too close behind me it’s small talk.  Otherwise known as chit-chat. Life is just too damn short for it.

1. BE GENUINELY INTERESTED.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but for me it takes work. Seriously.  I have the attention span of a gnat – just like my dad did.  So it’s a conscious effort for me to pay attention let alone be genuinely interested. What kind of work does it take to be genuinely interested?  For me, I always want to know the background.  So when I’m meeting a car dealer for the first time (my clients)  I really want to hear a story – their story. How did they get to where they are today?  I’m usually hooked right there.  So whether you’re at a casual party talking to the stranger next to you or at a baby shower, wedding, new job – dig deeper.


2. ASK A TON OF QUESTIONS. This is the most important one right here.  When talking to people you don’t know, never make it about you. Get other people talking.  I ask so many questions that it is downright crazy.  But turning the focus off you and on to them is what can make you enchanting + memorable.  I’ve wondered before if this just makes me controlling – because I tend to avoid uncomfortable silences and want to jump right in with the questions.  Who cares is my conclusion on that.  Plus, if you think you’re uncomfortable talking to people – I bet they are too.  So take the pressure off for both of you.

My mom is super good at both #1 and #2.  She genuinely cares and she DOESN’T TALK ABOUT HERSELF – she wants to hear from you.

When you are conscious of this, you really pay attention when having a casual conversation of who is doing the majority of the talking.  I fill you in, you fill me in… blah blah blah.  But when you don’t know someone, it is a lot less intimidating to get them talking.  With luck, you’ll meet someone who reciprocates and starts asking you questions back.  Who knows? It may be the start of a great friendship.

Have some questions at the ready -in your hip pocket – to whip out at any time.  I actually have a “go to” question that i’m not going to share.  It’s one I ask just about anyone. ROF knows what it is.  It’s something I genuinely want to know and it gets them talking.  


3. BE REAL. BE VULNERABLE.  Just relax. People are all people.  If you’re feeling nervous, then chances are – they are too.  Unless you’re claire underwood.  But, people really like it when you’re yourself.  isn’t it a relief when the person next to you at the baby shower, helps themselves to some tasty shrimp cocktail and a big fat glob of sauce hits their white shirt or worse?  If that happens to me, I’d laugh it off and make some crack about splattering some on the rest of the shirt, to even it out.  I’ve just given other people permission to be themselves.



I hope this helps even just a little bit.  Would love to hear any other advice you might have.

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