Unless you are both standing near something like
this, the weather is not a personal shared experience.

“It sure has been hot lately.”

Let’s face it. It’s not the most auspicious way to open a conversation — and it’s also not likely to lead to a one-to-one that really strengthens the relationship.

This is the first of a series talking about the conversations we should be having when we meet a new (or even a long-time) networking connection for coffee (lunch, breakfast, high tea, etc). Chatting about the weather, while easy, doesn’t really offer us the opportunity to find ways to help the other person and thereby deepen and strengthen the potential relationship.

About two years ago I came up with the acronym INFER as a mnemonic on the various topics we could ask the other person about — a guideline for a conversation. I’ve refined the concepts a bit. So, let’s delve into the why’s and how’s a little more deeply, starting out with their interests.

The passions make the person and we connect with the person.

Most people have interests outside their work. They have things they get excited about and devote their time to when they aren’t making their livelihood. In fact, sometimes their extra-curricular pursuits are the reason they have to work so hard. Some hobbies can get expensive!

One of two things can happen when you ask a person about his other interests:

  1. You share the interest. If this is the case, you suddenly become a lot closer almost immediately. I’m sure you’ve experiences this already. You’re sitting across from a financial planner, an accountant, or a IT repair specialist, chatting politely. Then you find out they share your interest in the television show “Battlestar Galactica”. Suddenly you are long-lost friends — your relationship jumping up a notch or two. Common interests create a common history.
  2. You don’t share their interests. While not as strong as #1, this still has its benefits. They may be into competitive Alpine chainsaw juggling (it’s the up-and-coming thing, I hear) and that’s not something you’ve ever really been too excited about. That’s OK. All you have to do is keep that information in the back of your head. The next time you read an article about the upcoming competitive Alpine chainsaw juggling convention that’s coming to town, you can forward that tidbit to your contact.

    Are they likely to know about that event already? Probably. The important thing is that they know that you remember them as a person who has interests other than their job or business. You are connected on a personal level.

The one-to-one conversation is about connecting on a personal level. Conversations about the rain, snow, heat, cold, etc. won’t make that connection. Shared experience or sharing experiences are where those deeper relationships will take place.
And it’s from our interests that those experiences arise.
Photo by Cheryl Empey