How To Turn Chance Encounters Into Meaningful Networking & Genuine Friends

January 21, 2020

Do you have a job that you aren’t proud of? Or one that feels beneath you? One that you took just to get by each month but is so far from your dreams that you feel like a failure? Or perhaps it doesn’t fill you with disdain, but equally doesn’t enthuse you in the way that other activities in your life do. Perhaps you don’t even have a job. Maybe you’re in the process of looking for work but have so far been unsuccessful. If you’ve never experienced any of these, count yourself lucky. You’re in the minority!

You see, to many people, a job is simply a way of earning an income. It isn’t necessarily a life purpose or passion. So for those individuals, the working life isn’t necessarily their favorite topic of discussion. Or rather, there is so much else that they would prefer discussing.

So, what’s worse than feeling a little down in the dumps working a job that you loathe? Being asked by someone you’ve just met, “hey, so what do you do for a living?” This is usually in a social environment when—assuming you’re working a job you detest—the last thing that you want to think about is work! So, not only are you faced with having to talk about the place you’re trying to forget about for the next few hours, but you feel the subconscious judgment of the person in front of you as you provide your response. Whether they realize it or not, they’re assessing who you are as a person—your worth, your drive, and your ambition—based on the answer you respond with. And nothing makes somebody’s walls ascend into an almighty fort quicker than feeling judged. Especially by a stranger.

Today we’re addressing the plague of meaningless interaction, as I like to call it. These are the questions that we have ingrained within us to ask during introductions as a means of supposedly trying to break the ice and get to know each other. The problem is, though, more often than not they simply don’t work.

The reason I bring this up is that now more than ever it’s important to be making real, genuine connections. At a time when separation in the West feels more black and white than ever, it is vital that we support and encourage each other. And above all else, try to prevent those walls going up.

The masses are craving change. Real, meaningful, social change. But the only way that social change occurs is through a little more understanding and a lot more love. Surely we’re all ready for the next stage of social evolution by now?

If you’re daunted by the prospect of meeting new people at parties or work events, I’ve compiled a list of icebreakers below that genuinely will get people talking rather than shying away. Hopefully, they will help you make new friends and enjoy yourself in the process. The aim is always this:

This person may turn out to be my best friend. How can I make him or her feel warm, respected, and valued? What can I ask to make them open up?

getting acquainted

The first step is to pay them a genuine compliment. Notice one thing that you admire about them, and give them a boost by telling them. They may have had a tough day or be nervous themselves, so share something heartfelt; that’s the perfect way to ease into the conversation. If you don’t notice anything instantly, this step can wait until the conversation has progressed a bit.

Next up, try to get in there first if you can with one of the below questions. Or any others that open the doorway to who they really are, not how they’re earning an income at present. If they begin talking about their job or their business, of course go along with it because it was brought up on their terms and therefore is clearly something they are comfortable sharing. But otherwise, shy away from the commonly asked but often dreaded question by making things exciting.

  1. So, what do you want to be when you grow up? The childlike question opens the door to playfulness. Anyone who asks this immediately prevents themselves from being taken too seriously. We all work too hard anyway, so more play time is always the answer in my opinion.

  2. If you were told that you only had a month left to live, what would you do? This is obviously a thought-provoking one and not something many people consider. A question like this often opens the door to really interesting and meaningful conversation.

  3. What are your three biggest dreams that you’d like to achieve? This gets the questionee focusing their energy on their passions—things that feel good. You’re giving them a gift by allowing them to talk about what makes them happy, which they may not get asked about very often.

  4. What’s the best vacation you’ve ever been on? If you’re into your travel, this is a great way to bring attention to that topic. They may have been somewhere that you’re going. Also, allowing someone to reminisce about a great holiday is always an easy way to get them in a good mood.

  5. Where is one place in the world that you would love to visit? This is much like the previous question, but instead of getting the questionee reminiscing, you get them creating, imagining, and dreaming. You might find an instant connection in your wanderlust, too.

  6. What’s your favorite food (or) restaurant in this city? Very few people don’t enjoy good food, so get them salivating by bonding over their favorite cuisine or hole-in-the-wall. This will often lead on to conversations about travel or hobbies, so don’t underestimate the power of the plate!

Surprise a stranger by asking these questions, and you might just inspire them to bring this type of encounter to the table the next time they meet someone new. Remember, meeting new people should be something to look forward to. You never know what opportunities and connections may come of each interaction. It can be exciting, if only you let it!

Can you think of any other engaging questions to ask a new acquaintance? 

Also by Kat: 6 Months a Vegan: What I’ve Learned So Far

Related: Inspired Living: Finding Balance in a Social World

On Making Adult Friendships Work

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Photo: Unsplash; Unsplash

Kat Kennedy is an Arizona-based physiology doctoral student and holistic health advocate writing about science, health, and her experiences as a third culture kid and global nomad. She's @sphynxkennedy everywhere.


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