Open conversations

Today I shared this old Seth Godin post with my staff. It’s about open conversations where authentic dialogue is encouraged. Here’s the hook:

A guy walks into a shop that sells ties. He’s opened the conversation by walking in.

Salesman says, “can I help you?”

The conversation is now closed. The prospect can politely say, “no thanks, just looking.”

Consider the alternative: “That’s a [insert adjective here] tie you’re wearing, sir. Where did you buy it?”

Conversation is now open. Attention has been paid, a rapport can be built. They can talk about ties. And good taste.

A guest told me yesterday our students offered the best experience of any campus tour she’s been on. I could have been happy with just that, thanked her, and moved on.

But I responded, “Why?”

“Why was ours the best? What did we do that you appreciated, that made our tour stand out?”

And then we had a good conversation, and I learned something from her insight.

I’m a bit of an introvert, and I’m a little too content too often with getting easy outs for conversation.

But meaningful conversations are rare and valuable and can make a day worthwhile like few other activities can. And they offer a chance to learn and grow. And, even better, they let you truly see and acknowledge others in the most primal, human way.

My wife is great at asking conversation-opening questions of our daughters. She’s not content with hearing they’ve had a good day. She wants to know exactly what was good about it and what were the highlights and lowlights and the best stories.

Avoid simple yes/no questions and cliched greetings. Safe and boring and superficial.

Make an art of opening conversations and sparking genuine connection and understanding.