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Localization manager/translator and coach/intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about diversity management and intercultural communication, self-awareness and coaching, SFBT and NVC, languages, cultures, body art, dancing, self-empowerment, and, last but not least, vegan gluten-free keto food and good movies. How about you?
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I'm the only person responsible for its content and the views and opinions expressed here are solely mines.
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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Are you guilty of boring small-talk or absolutely biased questions? Try these three questions instead

Are you looking for a way to
- be memorable while doing small-talk?
- be good at practicing intercultural communication?
- be able to really see the person in front of you?
- make the other person feel seen, appreciated and understood?

I know you are.
So feel free to keep reading, and bear with me.

[Can you see me? Like, really see me?
What do you see vs. what do you think that you are seeing?
Pic: Me, March 2017 © Radoslaw Kosiada]

Apparently, a lot of people do not like small-talk.

And yet, they do it unintentionally and without purpose, somehow in a sloppy or culturally blind way.
And then there are people that even though it is clear they do not like it, they feel obliged to do it and risk to collect a huge amount of awkward moments that will just reinforce the reasons why they didn't like small-talk in the first place.

Even if I am an introvert, I actually like and enjoy small-talk.
It is a way to create rapport and make a situation pleasant for me and for people I am getting to know or interacting with.

Small-talk can be a blast when done in a creative and personal way.
You say something, I react and ask questions, you reply, I then say something relevant to what you told me and so on...
Question after question, I get to know you, you get to know me, we establish a connection (it doesn't matter if for life or for five minutes) and we can see how far we can go from there.
It is like playing table tennis with a good opponent: if done right, it is stimulating and challenging in a positive way and helps one to become a better player herself.

[What do you think about, while doing small-talk?
Let's be honest here!]

That said, small-talk comes with a caveat: if you do it with someone not good at it, it can be a huge pain. Some people are terrible conversationalists: they stay there while looking at you dead in the eye and just kill every topic or even worst expect to be entertained without giving anything valuable to the conversation themselves.
In those cases, one feels blocked in a sort of conversation limbo and just think "Oh gosh, WHEN is this thing going to end and I will be able to leave this conversation without feeling rude?!".

[Boring or not inspiring small-talk?
Westley got it and says you have to deal with it.
How about trying something new instead?]

And then there are the questions that just destroy my willingness to talk to the other person every time I get asked this evil trio of just apparently neutral questions within the first five minutes of meeting someone new.

So next time, please...
Don't ask me where I am from, ask me where I am heading to.
Don't ask me about my background, ask me about my goals and passions.
Don't ask me about the circumstances of my life, ask me about what I made out of them.

This will make you memorable, to me: instead of you being just yet another person that asks me the same stuff that other ten people are going to ask me during the same evening as every other evening of the week, to me you will be someone able to think outside the box, to listen and to actually see me, as a human being.
This will make me memorable, to you. Because this will actually tell you something real about me.

[Deciding not to be the slave of your own past is great.
Now, please try not to make other people slaves of their own as well]

Where I am from, my background and the circumstances I had to face during my life were more or less an accident.
It doesn't matter if good or bad, awesome or perfect for some horror movies, they have very little to do with me and in the best scenario will tell you if I were lucky or not, if I was born in a "popular" country or not, which challenges I had to experience or if I have been a pampered child or a geeky girl. Nothing more, nothing less.
In the worst scenario, they will confirm your bias and prejudices and help you to filter whatever I am going to say afterward through your own preconceptions about something I had very little or no influence at all on.

They are all about the past. And trying to define someone through the past is not only dangerous but in most cases also short-sighted and pretty useless.

The other questions will tell you way more about where I am now in my life, what I consider important and which kind of person I am and I aim to be and to become. They will tell you something relevant about my present and my future and will give you precious information about what to expect from me and how you could deal with me.

The past is the past. It's gone, and it's too late: You are not going to be part of my past anyway.
In my humble opinion, my present and my future should be way more interesting for you since you could be part of them.

Just saying.

PS. If you are not into the questions I posted or you consider them too bold for people you don't know well, Alexandra Franzen offers a very interesting list of questions you can use to break the ice.

Tags: Small-talk, Bad questions, Good questions for getting to know someone, Intercultural communication, Slave of the past, Quotes

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