Networking Tips: Conversation Starters (and Stoppers)

Ilise Benun on graphic design proposalAs I read each chapter of my new favorite book, The Most Human Human, by Brian Christian, I find more gems that can be easily adapted into 21st century networking tips for freelancers.

For example, when someone asks, “How are you?” the worst response you can possibly give if you’re trying to start a conversation, is “Good” or “Fine.” It tells the other nothing. In fact, it could be interpreted as a rebuff, a euphemism for “I don’t want to talk,” even though in reality, you (anxious networker that you are) may simply not know what to say to keep the dialogue going.

Here’s a better way to answer the tried and true, “How are you?”

You could say, “Ugh” or “Amazing” or “Better” or even “Good, actually” – all of these responses sidestep the ritual pleasantries, the automatic and robotic response. Instead, in their elegant one-word-ness, they creatively allude to recent events, thereby offering an invitation to the listener to inquire further.

Author, Brian Christian, calls this a “hold,” like those jewel-toned rubber blobs you see on a fake rock climbing wall. “Each is both an aid to the climber and an invitation onto a certain path or route along the ascent,” he writes. “You give the other people an easy first hold – a simple and obvious way to initiate a conversation with you, if they want.”

Try it and let me know how it works. In fact, come to the Creative Freelancer Conference later this month (June 21-22 in Boston) to try it — there will be plenty of networking opportunities!

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