The Keys to Connecting

How well do you connect with other people in informal social occasions? If you tend to be shy or awkward at cocktail parties or networking events, it can be bad for your career and rob you of connection with others who might become friends or mentors.

Fortunately, there’s a solution. Researchers have shown that there’s a fairly reliable way to make small talk and connect with others. Best of all, anyone can master it.

The solution is: whenever you encounter others who you think might be interesting, focus on the other person rather than yourself. Many people make the mistake of trying to entertain instead of connecting, on the assumption that your personality or your wit is the value you bring to parties. But actually, what most people crave is an audience.

The key here is to ask questions that will prompt the other person to share something about him/herself. A recent online article in Medium offers 49 questions you can pose to someone you meet for the first time, although some of them might not be ideal for the shy or easily embarrassed. (“Are you scared of death?” doesn’t sound like the ideal ice-breaker for many of us.) But others are creative and have the potential to lead to a fun conversation. Among the best: 

  • What would you be most likely to volunteer for? 
  • What are you looking forward to in the next few weeks? 
  • Do you like to cook? What’s the last thing you cooked? 
  • If you didn’t live here, where else would you choose? 
  • When do you know you’ve reached adulthood? What makes an adult an adult? 
  • Do you know your Myers-Briggs personality type? What are your thoughts on personality assessments? 
  • What kind of music do you listen to when you need to amp yourself up and get things done? How about when you want to mellow out? 
  • What excites you these days? 
  • When was the last time you laughed really hard? What were you laughing ator whom were you laughing with?
  • What are three words your friends would use to describe you?
  • What makes you feel appreciated and loved?
  • What do you think makes a good friend?
  • Do you like to cook? What’s the last thing you cooked? Or was cooked for you?
  • If you didn’t live here, where else would you choose?

But the questions themselves are not the entire key; it’s also important to ask follow-up questions. Many times, in conversation, we wait impatiently for another person to finish talking so we can interject our own answer (I am the worst offender here). However, I recently discovered that if you continue to probe for the other person’s view, rather than jumping in to share your own, people will respond more favorably and open up to a deeper conversation. Don’t make the conversation too weird by turning it into an interrogation; make sure you insert thoughtful follow-up questions, which make the conversation more fun for the other party.

And because everyone has access to information and insights that we’ve never encountered, think of the things you’ll learn that you might have otherwise missed at social gatherings. Don’t worry about impressing the other person. You just have to listen, or Seek first to understand then be understood!

Stay Diversified, Stay the Course




Empyrion Wealth Management (“Empyrion”) is an investment advisor registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Information pertaining to Empyrion’s advisory operations, services and fees is set forth in Empyrion’s current Form ADV Part 2A brochure, copies of which are available upon request at no cost or at The views expressed by the author are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of Empyrion. The information contained in any third-party resource cited herein is not owned or controlled by Empyrion, and Empyrion does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of any information that may be found in such resources. Links to any third-party resource are provided as a courtesy for reference only and are not intended to be, and do not act as, an endorsement by Empyrion of the third party or any of its content. The standard information provided in this blog is for general purposes only and should not be construed as, or used as a substitute for, financial, investment or other professional advice. If you have questions regarding your financial situation, you should consult your financial planner or investment advisor.

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