Ever been with a group of people that all of a sudden they all disperse and you’re left standing or sitting there with someone you don’t know or know that you share nothing in common? Awkward isn’t it? Often times we’re not quick on our feet or crafty at striking up an interesting enough conversation to squash the uncomfortable silence. The solution to this problem lies in the first half of my Mission Statement which is “To Connect and Inspire.” A good rule of thumb is to be more interested than interesting. Move in quickly (the sooner the better) with a good question to find out more about the person. Ask about their interests, listen, respond to show that you are listening and then proceed with another question that’s pertinent to how they answered the first question. Hopefully, even though you may know nothing about what interests them, it’s something that you’re able to be genuinely interested in or else you’re going to be bored to tears (which may, in fact, be the lesser of the two evils versus the previous awkward silence).
Remember: People love to hear themselves talk and they love talking about themselves. So be the proactive one and ask them a compelling question. Over time you’ll develop this skill and be able to ask questions that will guide the conversation into a topic that interests you as well. A key driver of this skill is imagination. A compelling imagination will help you ask a more interesting question that leads to a more interesting conversation.
Writers are gifted with a vast imagination. So, whether they know it or not, they would be very good at coming up with compelling questions. Actors too. Think about it, a writer often writes about or an actor may have to play a character with whom they have nothing in common. So how do they do this so well? You have to be willing to learn new things. If the person you’re standing there alone with is talking about things that don’t interest you all it takes is an open mind to be able to connect with them. Being open-minded comes with some great benefits! The more open-minded you are the more people you will connect with and who knows where one of those connections will take you one day. For example, it might just skyrocket your career.
NBC ran series of public service announcement entitled “The More You Know” encouraging parents to be more involved in their children’s education. This trains young people to be more open-minded. Research shows that communities that support multicultural studies have a significant reduction acts of prejudice and racial injustice. These topics are themes in my Extra Inning trilogy with a particular focus during the baseball game in the first book ‘The Diamond Thieves.’
Considering the time period (Cold War) and location (Deep South) of the Extra Innings series, I felt it was critical to include these topics in the story. I’m a white male, so I’ve never personally faced what a black has faced in terms of unfair or unjust treatment because of the color of his skin. I’ve always had a very diverse pool of friends and enjoyed engaging in conversations that some may find uncomfortable. These connections have educated me on the topic of discrimination and social injustice. I am very interested in this topic.
For some, making these sort of connections may not come easy but, again, it’s all about keeping an open mind. In the end, you’ll be amazed with the new and cherished relationships you’ll establish by keeping an open mind and showing a sincere interest in what’s important in that individual’s life.