Get People Asking the Million Dollar Question: How’s Your Business Going?

Meeting someone in your network? Make the most of your time and theirs with the following tips.

Recently, I spent the day museum hopping with my boys, 7 and 2, in Washington D.C. The morning went quickly with all of the excitement generated riding the double-decker Big Bus, and visiting with dinosaurs, butterflies, and birds. As you can imagine, when lunchtime rolled around, we were hungry and my little one was tired. My eldest and I made our way over to the cafeteria taking turns pushing the little guy in the stroller. When I saw the line, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to ride it out.   A tired, hungry, extremely active toddler waiting in cue for lunch is anything but civilized and, on more than one occasion, I’ve abandoned ship entirely. But without a plan B, getting lunch could take even longer. Wandering around an unknown town looking for a lunch-spot that would accommodate us was not in our best interest. That I knew for sure. Did I mention how hungry we were?

After five minutes on line, my little one stopped screaming “OUT!” When I looked over the hood of the stroller at him, he was fast asleep. My seven year old and I proceeded to get some food, take a table, and enjoy the unusually calm lunch that was the direct result of our very active “baby” sleeping in the stroller beside us.

I looked across the table at my big boy. “You know, “ I said, “It’s really nice having lunch with you.” He looked up at me, his bright-eyes beaming, before playing it coy. “What do you mean, Mom? We have lunch together a lot.” “Yeah, I know.” I replied. “This is different, though. At home, I’m busy making lunch for you and your brother. I’ve got to keep an eye out that he doesn’t choke, make a colossal mess or spill his milk. Sometimes the phone rings or someone’s at our door or I’m thinking about what I need to prep for dinner or any number of other distractions that go along with my job as Mom.” His big blue eyes were focused on mine knowingly. He knew the drill. He lived it too. What I mean is…it’s really nice to be here with you with the time and space to have a conversation.” He looked at me. “I know what you mean,” he said. A quiet lull ensued and we both dipped into it happily. He took a bite of his pizza. I took a forkful of salad. Then, he looked at me and said, “So, Mom, how’s your business going?”

There you have it, the million-dollar question. How’s your business going? Insert career or job search or whatever is most important to your profession right now. Why, when it seems to flow so easily out of the heart and mind of a seven year old, do the people we’re trying to connect with often fail to ask us the question we most need them to ask?

The answer is simple: We haven’t connected with them properly first. The conversation between my son and my self occurred effortlessly and yet I see people blunder a conversation like this all the time by being over-eager or making the conversation all about them. The following three tips will help create a mutually satisfying conversation that results in a stronger connection.

  1. Be Present and Know Your Audience. That morning, at the museums in D.C., I was acutely aware that my two year old had perfected a balanced performance of absolutely adorable and downright dangerous commanding a lot of my attention. It was only by mentally checking in with my eldest –in my own mind–that I realized that although we were all together, I hadn’t much opportunity to interact with him and that a little well-placed TLC was likely to go a long way. When that peaceful moment presented itself, I told him how I honestly felt about him. Because I used the combination of what I knew as fact, and how I imagined he was feeling, I knew the right words to say. You can do this too. Ask yourself the following: What do I know about the current state of mind of the person I’m meeting? Have they recently posted a slice of life to Facebook or some other social media that I can bring up as a point of connection? When was the last time we talked? Where did we leave off? The result? Asking yourself these questions will get your meeting off to a great start and ensure that the time you spend is productive. When you put forth your caring concerned self, whomever you are meeting with will feel appreciated and replenished in your company. That, my friends, is always good for you and your work.
  2. Be Grateful. Thank Them for Their time. What I shared with my son was gratitude for his presence. How many times do we ask someone in our network to take time out of their busy schedules to be with us and we don’t even have the presence of mind to be grateful for their time?
  3. Give Compliments. When you feel grateful, you’re more likely to give. I recommend a compliment; they’re free and they ALWAYS make people feel good. I gave my son a compliment he valued, and, in return, he asked me the million-dollar question. If he can do it, you can too. So, how’s your business going?