You Should Have Asked
Human beings are fascinating. It’s too bad that most of the general population doesn’t agree. I know this because over the past 15 years I’ve spoken to over one million people. During that time, I’ve noticed that we’ve become a species that has literally stopped asking each other good questions. I have observed this at networking functions, fundraisers, parties, and even in line at Tim Hortons.
I’m not trying to brag, but I have a pretty cool job. I produce musicals, write books, host radio shows, shoot videos, get interviewed on TV and help big Canadian companies reach new levels of success. When someone asks what I do for a living, I obviously don’t give them the entire list, and instead default to one thing by saying, “I’m a professional speaker.” Quite often, the person will not dig deeper and will say something like, “Wow, that sounds like fun. And do you live in Toronto?” I kid you not when I say that at least 99 per cent of the time the person I’m speaking with does not follow-up with lines like, ‘Interesting, so what subjects do you talk about on stage?’, ‘How did you get involved in a career like that’, or ‘What types of audiences do you speak to?’ The same happens when it comes up in conversation that I’ve written a book.
I realize that many people will read the above lines and interpret them as being narcissistic. If this is what you are thinking, I can assure you that I have many close friends who are just as interested in my life as I am in theirs. I’m simply trying to illustrate a point. How interesting does the information have to be before someone asks a question? Do we have to win a Stanley Cup, invent the light bulb or go to the moon before someone says, ‘Wow, what was that experience like?’
I’ll say it again: people are fascinating. And it’s the fascinating components of their lives that can be your gateway to an entirely new and exciting world. Every human being that you interact with or pass by on the street has something positive to offer you. It could be the lead on a new job, an introduction to your life partner or a tip on choosing great restaurants in the city. And the only way you’re going to find out is if you ask. If you commit yourself to asking people questions about who they are, you will naturally discover ways in which they can enrich your life.
When people attend networking events, the biggest mistake they make is asking others what they do for a living. Once that person answers, they automatically cross-reference this information with what they themselves do for a living, and often come to the conclusion that this person can’t do anything for me. ‘Oh, you’re a computer engineer? That’s great. I’m a makeup artist.’ But makeup artists can have friends who organize volleyball tournaments and computer engineers can be avid volleyball players. The only way this information is going to squirm its way onto the table is if the person shows interest in the person and not just what they do for a living. Don’t try to network on a career. Instead, network on a life and the results will amaze you.
Speaking of networks, how powerful is yours? If you lost a job, needed a mechanic or wanted to find the best math tutor for your child, how quickly could your network solve that problem for you? The answer to that question can be answered by asking another question: How do people feel when they talk to you? Do they feel excited, interested, enlightened, inspired or plain-old bored? Since the history of time, people go out of their way, promoting and making time for those who have made them feel good. The power of your network is directly related to the way people feel when they are around you. Showing interest in people and making them feel awesome during your conversations gives them every reason to want to contribute to your own life. You are literally strengthening your network one conversation at a time. The success we experience is directly related to the human relationships we hold. The stronger your relationships, the greater your success. That won’t happen if you only talk about the weather.
Everyone has a story, and very few ever get the chance to tell it. That’s an opportunity for you. A better opportunity is to create an amazing story for yourself. Ask the right questions and other people will help you write it.