Take a second and think about the most important relationships in your life.
Now take another second and think about how those relationships started.
Was your best friend wearing a Jets jersey in your neighbourhood football game and being a Pats fan you couldn’t keep your mouth shut and a conversation started?
Or was your current partner introduced to you by mutual friends and you simply asked them their name and how they knew the people hosting the party?
When meeting new people it is easy to get caught up in the idea that we have to knock their socks off, and we forget that not one “Hall of Famer” has ever hit more home runs than singles.
Like the best hitters, the best conversationalists approach their job with the same mindset: advance. They see a small opening and inch by inch they move the conversation forward until trust is built and interest is generated.
On an episode of The Tim Ferriss Show — I was recently reminded of the power of what Paulo Coehlo was talking about when he wrote — “The simple things are also the most extraordinary,” when Tim sat down to talk with legendary interviewer and Esquire columnist, Cal Fussman.
When asked by Tim how he was able to travel the world on a shoe-string budget for over a decade, Cal’s response was simple: he proactively asked the people around him at the time whose faces looked like they had a story to tell a variation of the following question:
“How do you make your goulash?.”
Odd place to start, but imagine what would happen if you sat down next to an Hungarian grandmother on a train and asked her this very question.
By Cal asking this question to the Hungarian grandmother in his story, not only did he eat goulash that night (and every night thereafter for the following six weeks as he was passed around Hungry house by house) he learned quite possibly the most important thing there is to know about people and building relationships: People like to talk about themselves.
After listening to Cal and Tim’s conversation I sent it to my dad to hear this thoughts, and in true dad fashion, he wrote back only four words, “The man is interesting.”
But Cal is not interesting because he travelled the world.
There are lots of people who do that.
Cal is interesting because early on in his life he realized that the best way to write his own story was to ask people about theirs and more times than not he got to interesting after connecting a bunch of basic questions.
Much like how by giving to others, you also give to yourself, by Cal being interested, in turn (like the Carnegie quote above implies) he became interesting, showing us first hand that sometimes the best way to place first, is by simply going first.
Author Seth Godin says that there is no better investment than a book. If for just $20 you can learn a lesson or hear a story that changes your life, it was money well spent.
I agree and I disagree.
Books cost money, but people’s stories are free.
You just have to learn how to ask the right questions, and fortunately for us — like Cal has shown us — sometimes the most obvious will do.
As someone who just re-discovered his love of writing this past year, your claps, comments and follows mean the world.
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