On any given day, we have dozens of interactions and conversations. In fact, one study out of Britain revealed that the average person has 27 conversations every day, lasting an average of 10 minutes each.

When I think about showing up to networking events or cocktail parties to exchange business cards over superficial talk with uninteresting people, I cringe. Literally.

But what if we changed our approach to engaging new people in conversation?

What if we stopped showing up with the expectation of getting something from the person across from us, like a referral or their business?

What if we started showing up to a new acquaintance with the expectation of truly connecting with that person by having a real and engaging conversation, no strings attached?

The new way to interact in conversation

To make any of the interactions we will have each day more meaningful and interesting for the other person, we need to be mindful of the fact that every person we encounter, like us, comes with their unique experiences — good or bad.

Every person we come across this very moment of interaction has a story to tell. 

Knowing this, think of how you can shift from dreaded questions like, “So, what do you do?” to more intentional questions that will make the interaction more meaningful for the other person.

In other words, what if you stopped and considered the story that a person may be bringing with her? 

The key to creating meaningful interactions? Take your eyes off of yourself and place it on the other person and his or her story. By giving them the attention first, you’ll have a clear edge: People are naturally wired and looking for connection and positive affirmation; they want to be seen and heard.

They want to share their stories.

The question that will jumpstart great conversations

And it all starts with asking the right questions. If you want to permanently kill the small talk, your first order of priority is to ban questions like “What do you do?” and “Where are you from?” in favor of great conversational starters, like this one.

“What’s your story?”

This open-ended question is bound to trigger something interesting after the other person gets over the initial shock that you asked it. By opening up a conversation in this manner, you’ve given them access to speak from their hearts and share their life’s journeys, dreams, and goals.

Originally published on Inc.

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