I was having a conversation with my husband last night about his upcoming 30-year high school reunion, and he was telling me about how pleased he was that an old classmate had reached out to him and a few others via text to ask if they were going to attend. He hasn’t seen this woman in many years and was very excited to hear from her. She was -in his words- a phenomenal person.
Of course me being me, I asked him: What makes her phenomenal?
He thought about it for a minute, and he said: Well you know, she’s just cool, kind of like Tanya and Marcie (two people I have met) you know? I mean, these are people who really get it.
Pushing my luck a bit, I asked: What does it mean to “get it?”
My husband, not in the mood to be probed at that moment, diverted the conversation down another path, and I let it go.
And yet the conversation got me thinking.
When we find that we really like someone, what is that about? I considered the two people that he mentioned as comparison. I don’t know them well, yet I did feel that I liked them.
I realized that as I looked back into my memories of time spent with them, I saw their faces smiling. I had a sense that they were saying positive things, and that their demeanor toward me had been warm. I’m also quite sure that they asked me questions about myself.
We all like to talk about ourselves
Have you ever observed a conversation where one person is talking and another person is listening, and then at the end of it, the talker decides that that the listener is one of the coolest people they’ve ever met?
We all like to talk about ourselves. Most of us also desire to be liked by others. Isn’t it fascinating to consider that one of the quickest ways to get a person to like you is to ask them a bunch of questions and allow them to talk?
It also helps if you listen carefully to what they say and remember it.
Thinking back again to those two people my husband had mentioned, it occurred to me that the reason I say I don’t know them well might be that they spent more time learning about me than I spent learning about them. Yet I surely knew I liked them, most probably because of the interest they showed in me.
There’s a saying in sales: he who asks the questions controls the conversation.
Framing it in that way may sound manipulative, and I suppose it could be, depending on one’s motivation and the types of questions asked. Yet it doesn’t have to be. Asking questions of others for the purpose of learning more about them is a way of showing interest, which in turn signals care and respect.
Another way to say it is that it’s better to be interested than interesting.
I’m very glad that my husband’s childhood friend reached out to him, and that I will get a chance to meet her at the class reunion this weekend. Based on his description, I expect that she’ll be a positive and interested person.
And I will endeavor to be that for her and the others I meet as well.