Once you open a conversation, how do you carry it? The key is to break social scripts and replace them with sparking conversation topics. Learn what a social script it is and why they're poor choices if you want to make a genuine connection.
- How many times have you had the same boring, monotonous, mind-numbing conversations at networking events. You know the ones I mean. They go like this. So, how are ya? Good, good. What do you do? Mm-hmm. Where are you from? Great, well, I'm going to get an appetizer. Nice talking to you. Fail. I call this kind of conversation a social script. A social script is when you've been asked the same question and answered the same way hundreds of times before.
So basically, you're reading from an internal script. Here's the problem. Social scripts are totally mindless. You could've had them in your sleep, which means you aren't really listening and you sound bored with your own answers. Social scripts are the enemy of being memorable. One of the most important social skills is being able stimulate fascinating conversations with everyone you meet. But being a master conversationalist requires one big talent, the ability to break social scripts.
Here's how. Step number one, avoid traps. There are a few social script traps. Typically, they are the questions everyone asks all the time. The most common social script traps are: How are you? This question barely even warrants a real answer. If you ask most people how are you, they can't help but reply, without even thinking, fine, good, even if that's not the case. Boring. The next trap is what do you do. I know, I know.
If you're at a professional event, it's hard not to ask this question, but it's so overused, it won't get you a great answer. I have better ones I'll share in a minute. The next trap is where are you from. This question is okay, but it usually produces a very quick, one-word answer that doesn't really go anywhere. I try to avoid it and see if it comes up naturally. My challenge to you in this video is to go on a social script diet. Challenge yourself to not ask how are you, what do you do, or where are you from in the next month to see if you can elevate your conversations.
Here's what I would rather have you ask instead. Step number two, trigger excitement. Instead of asking the same boring questions, I encourage you to ask questions that search for some kind of excitement in the other person. This is a great way to break social scripts. In my book, Captivate, I created a concept called big talk to replace small talk. Small talk and social scripts are full of the typical, boring questions. Big talk is when you ask questions that dig a little deeper, that search for emotion, that trigger excitement.
So instead of asking what do you do, ask: Working on anything exciting recently? Instead of asking how are you, ask: Anything good happen today? These questions are searching for some kind of good story, exciting news, or positive experience in the other person. Here are some of my favorite other excitement-inducing conversation starters. In fact, I call them conversation sparkers because they spark delight and memorability. Have any vacations coming up? Read anything interesting lately? Working on any personal passion projects? What's the highlight of your week? Have any good shows you're watching? Try all of these in the next few days and see which ones produce the best conversations.
Step number three, build on the good. The final step is to build on the positivity you create. If you ask a conversation sparker and get a great answer, be ready with a sparking answer yourself. I encourage you to have your own great answers to all the sparkers I shared above. Why? Just in case you ask someone a question and they need a minute to think of the answer, you can pop in with yours. If you ask someone have any good shows you're watching and they say hmm, let me think, you can say, oh, I've totally been addicted to Handmaid's Tale on Netflix, have you seen it? This then gives them time to think about their answer and talk about yours.
Remember, the goal is to stay away from social scripts. Move the conversation towards excitement and new topics to create a memorable first impression.
- Cite some shortcuts to a great first impression.
- Define a thin-slice.
- Summarize what people who meet you for the first time are trying to determine.
- Explain the importance of the perfect handshake.
- Recall the characteristics of an excellent opening line.
- Describe ways to become a better conversationalist.