“Everyone has a purpose in life and a unique talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.”
~ Kallam Anji Reddy

What is something people don’t know about you that they can’t find on Google?

That was the ice-breaker question at a recent Michigan National Speakers Association (NSA) meeting. Each of us in turn was supposed to answer it in the hopes of getting to know each other better. The woman sitting next to me admitted to being a secret shopper. I told about the fact that almost every night I sing “Inchworm” to my daughter Abby to help her sleep. Then it was my friend Sherene McHenry’s turn. I figured she would talk about her boat or something like that. I was wrong.

“I’m a thrill-seeker. You give me a parachute and a perfectly good airplane and I am ready for a good day!”

I’ve known Sherene for a while now. We were on the Board of the NSA Michigan chapter for a long time together. She has been an amazing friend and advisor, helping me to become a better leader in the process — a topic in which she is an expert. How could I not know this about her?

Our best relationships — professional or personal — have this in common. We know more about that other person than we could find by Googling them or by perusing their LinkedIn profile. This isn’t information that we can locate simply. This requires some actual conversation over time. It also means we have to be willing to ask deeper questions and listen to their answers.

Here are some areas you might ask about:

  1. Their interests. What do they do when they aren’t selling widgets? Go beyond simply what they are, but how they got into them and what they get out of them. Ask them what the newest and latest is for this pursuit. You might even ask about how to get started. They’ll have some good advice and they get to be the acknowledged expert.
  2. Their work. Make this more than just what they do. How did they get there? Where did they start? What was their first big break? Where do they hope to go? What’s changed and how are they dealing with that? Sometimes what they do is just the first thing that came along, but sometimes it reveals the larger picture of their underlying values and their mission in life.
  3. Their dreams. What motivates them to keep going each day? What excites them? Do they want to travel the world? Be with the grandchildren? Build their dream home? This does more than simply reveal their deep, driving passions in life. It also show you how you can be of service — not a bad way to create the strongest connections of all.

Conversations with those around you are a good first step to creating a powerful network. To strengthen those relationships, though, it takes more than a discussion of the weather or what we had for dinner or what we’re watching on TV. Discuss the qualities you can’t find on Google and you might just discover the person sitting next to you is a skydiving thrillseeker…

… and you might enjoy going along for the ride.

Photo by Gabriel Christian Brown