Tag Archives: networking

How to Ask Questions

21 Jun

In an earlier blog post I asked the question, why are asking questions so difficult for so many people?  Without being redundant I explained that as children we were taught to answer questions, not to ask them. In my house growing up I heard things like; don’t ask so many questions; if we wanted you to know we would have told you; that’s none of your business; I’m busy now, go ask your mother; children should be seen and not heard; that’s an important person so don’t bother them; your opinion is not wanted; and a big one for me, Michael, don’t be so nosey! And let us not forget, “curiosity killed the cat!” What cat? Who’s cat? How did it die?

As children our minds were like sponges. With so much to see and so much to learn, it was natural to ask questions. We didn’t know about social norms. We didn’t know about being impolite. We were just curious.

So here we find ourselves many years later at some association meeting mingling with other people, who are there for the same reasons we are. We stand alone feeling this uncomfortable fear deep in the pit of our stomachs. Wanting to introduce ourselves to others but afraid. Afraid we won’t know what to say. Afraid we may be bothering the other person. Afraid they’ll find us not very interesting. Afraid that our voice may betray our nervousness. Not sure how to disengage. And always fearing a pregnant pause, where the conversation stops and you reach that embarrassing moment where you’re not sure what to say or do next.

So let us talk about overpowering our fear of walking up to a complete stranger at a social event, or a business networking mixer, and engaging them in a conversation. First thing to know is this; everyone there is there for the same reason you are, to meet new people. Either to make new business connections or to make new friends. The second thing to know is that almost everyone you do meet will be feeling the same fears as you. After all, we all grew up in similar dysfunctional families.

So here is what you must learn – to ask questions. Dale Carnegie tells us in his bestselling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, to get the other person to talk about their favorite subject. And that is – themself. And it’s really not too hard.

If you are at an event where people are wearing name badges (always wear yours on the right) they should have the name of their employer or business under their name. Let’s say I walk up to Jonathon Rogers who works at Main Street Bank, this is what I would say and do: Hi Jonathon, my name is Michael Luckman as I reach out my hand. (Note: Don’t call him Jon or some nickname you called your cousin Jonathon when you were kids. Use what’s on their badge). Next: I see you’re with Main Street Bank. What do you do for them? When they answer you might then ask, How long have you been with Main Street? Then you might ask, Did you major in finance while in college? If they say no, I majored in Phys. Ed. You might respond, Well that’s a big change, so, how did you get into banking? Continue this questioning and play off what the other person says to you.

You see, this is not rocket science. All you’re doing is asking questions about the other person and getting them to talk about themselves. Don’t worry if they don’t ask you about yourself. They were probably just afraid. But here is what they’re thinking when you do disengage: “Wow, that person was really interesting. I like him.” And they’re talking about you.

With Love,


Why Are Asking Questions So Difficult?

19 Jun

We live in a rapidly changing world. Every day we read about some technological or medical breakthrough that only 20 years ago was considered science fiction. Mention 78, 45 or 33 1/3 and half your audience will stare at you blankly as if you spoke to them in some alien language. But mention the word networking and everyone will immediately know, (or think they know), what you’re talking about.

“Sure I network,” comes the response from a large percentage of respondents when asked, Do you network?  “I’m a master networker. I have over 1500 1st connections on LinkedIn and so many friends on Facebook that I stopped counting.” But when asked again, do you network; they’ll give you a look, which if verbalized, would say DUH?

Now I’m on LinkedIn and on Facebook and am not so old that I don’t communicate with my grandchildren on these platforms. But when I mention networking it’s the old fashion kind. You know the kind; where you’re participating in a chamber event, or a meeting of an association you belong to, or a Kiwanis or Rotary program. A live event with live people, who if you met a number of them, and they liked you, might, at some future time, provide you with an introduction or referral to your ideal prospect. Or, if you’re not a business owner or salesperson, someone who may open some doors for you to help further your career.

As you know, I am an expert on fear, and there is nothing more frightening then to walk into a room full of people, most of whom you don’t know, and walk-up to someone and introduce yourself. I think, given a choice, most people would opt for a colonoscopy live on national television with Katie Couric. But why? Why is it so difficult to introduce ourselves to another human being and carry on a simple conversation? Fear of course. But why do we feel this intense fear?

The fears we feel in walking up to a stranger and introducing ourselves stem from childhood. We fear rejection. We believe they won’t want to talk to us because we’re bothering them. They won’t like us because we believe were not interesting or worthy of their time. Or we fear not knowing what to say after we say hello. Now where did this garbage come from?

Well, like most fears they were given to us by mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, teachers, friends, and anyone that has ever made a negative comment to us. We never learned to ask questions, but instead were taught to answer them. And then, only when asked. We heard things like: Don’t ask so many questions. Speak only when spoken to. That’s a stupid question. That’s an important person, and they don’t want to hear from you. You should be seen, but not heard. You have nothing interesting to say. Stop stuttering and get it out. Cat got your tongue?

It’s hard to believe, but the negative things we were told about ourselves as children, and we accepted as the truth, would continue to hinder us 10, 20, 30 years later. It doesn’t make sense.

In my next blog I’ll teach you how to carry on a conversation with anyone, just by learning how to ask questions.

With Love,


Go Ahead – Take the First Step!

14 Feb

Thinking will not overcome fear but action will. ~W. Clement Stone

W. Clement Stone was the proverbial rags to riches story. At 16 years old he began selling insurance and built a business that became a billion dollar company. He was also the founder of Success magazine and hired Og Mandino to be his publisher. In 1960 he co-authored a book with Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, about Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) entitled Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude.

Fear can be one of the most paralyzing emotions known to mankind. It has been said that more people could survive airplane crashes, but fear keeps them frozen in their seats where they eventually die of smoke inhalation.

The fear that I am talking about is the fear conjured up in our minds that prevent us from taking action. Actions like: walking up to a stranger and introducing ourselves. Calling a stranger on the phone. Going to a party or networking event and carrying on simple conversations. Speaking our minds at community meetings. Sharing our ideas with co-workers and supervisors. These fears are only in the mind. They have no basis in fact, yet they prevent us from living the lives we deserve and dream about.

The best time to overpower a fear is right before you take action. Whatever it is you have to do or say you’ve already spent weeks worrying about, and making yourself miserable. Once you step through that fear you’ll find a calm that you never believed was there.

Will fear return? Probably. But once you know you can survive intact overpowering your fear you’ll be a bit more courageous the next time you face a fear, and the next.

Remember, you are much more powerful than you believe you are. You can do anything.

With love,