Why you shouldn’t start a conversation with “How are you?”

How would you like a “magic question” or two? Something you could ask that will brighten up any conversation? 

So many people are depressed, anxious or struggling to make sense of what’s happening with the economy and the pandemic. It helps for them to see the full scope of what’s happening in the world at large and their own personal lives, and realize how much good there is still happening — for them and for others. So, instead of asking the same old “How are you doing?” everyone asks at the start of a conversation, try something else. I start with a smile — that’s important — and then I ask these three questions, one right after the other:

  • What are you excited about?
  • What are you having fun with?
  • What are you looking forward to?
R.J. Kelly

See more from R.J. Kelly in the MDRT video, “Three ideas to stay in business during a crisis.”

When you put those three questions together, people stop to think for a moment. You see the corners of their mouth go up. Particularly if you’re smiling, they will smile right back at you. Then they’ll say something like, “Those are great questions! Let’s see …” and then they start to tell you what they are having fun with, or what they are excited about or what they are looking forward to. I asked “magic questions” in a call recently, and you could just feel the energy and warmth coming over the phone. 

After you’ve had a chance to talk about what they’re having fun with, you can bridge to asking them, “Are there any joy robbers going on right now, other than the obvious with the pandemic and with the economy?” Then listen to what they have to say and be empathic. This allows you to connect with clients on a much deeper level than at the level of their anxiety. 

To be sure, there are some very difficult things going on and some quite tragic. However, by starting with what is positive and with genuine interest — and with a smile — I have yet to find someone not be able to answer positively to at least one of those questions.

R.J. Kelly is a Court of the Table qualifier from San Diego, California. He’s been an MDRT member since 1979. See more from Kelly in the MDRT video, “Three ideas to stay in business during a crisis.”



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