By Angelia L. White
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The one thing I have learned in my 10 years as a publisher is that you cannot feign disinterest, and there is one moment when being disinterested can make or break a potential relationship: at the introduction phase. In a split second, someone will decide to continue a conversation beyond a handshake and greeting or totally dismiss you because you have demonstrated little to no interest in that individual as a person. Whether meeting a future business associate, friend or mate, there are ways to express interest with five simple questions.

Ask:

  1. What is your full name? Requesting a full name lets someone know you want to remember him or her. Ask how to spell their name if you had a hard time hearing it, and even ask what that person prefers to be called. Repeat the name back to your new acquaintance, and offer your full name in return.
  2. How are you? This question is generally asked without listening and waiting for an answer. Most people ask it like they’re saying, “Hello.” Invite a sincere answer by pausing after you ask, and make sure to smile to invite trust.
  3. How has your day (week) been so far? This is another invitation to converse and connect with the person you’ve just met. You can compare notes, commiserate and, if necessary, offer encouragement.
  4. Are you from around here? “Here” is the location of your meeting. This question is filled with possibilities, such as an offer to extend hospitality, having hospitality extended to you or sharing a commonality. Many questions will follow.
  5. If it is not obvious (as in grocery store, mall or funeral home), then ask: What brought you here today? This is a particularly good question to ask if you’re at a conference or networking event.

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The important point of these five questions is that they will enable you to express interest in a person you’ve just met. If you’re shy, you won’t have to search for ways to connect in a healthy manner. If you’re outgoing, this offers a way to know others without making you the primary focus. Too often, we miss opportunities to get know a stranger because we don’t pursue the right line of questioning.

There are also some questions you want to avoid. Don’t immediately ask a person what they do for a living or what kind of car he or she drives. People are not things or titles; they are valued individuals with a need to be authentically greeted.

There is one last question you can ask, if you receive the cues to continue. Ask your new acquaintance, “Can we keep in touch?” That’s the perfect close to the perfect connection.

Do you have questions you ask people you’ve just met? If so, share them in the comments section.

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