Want to engage someone? Try this…

You’ve likely had this experience. You meet someone at a networking event and you introduce yourself

You start with your name – ‘Hi, I’m Joe Smith’. And then… almost certainly… you tell them your title or your job. ‘I’m the VP of Stuff at Company X’ or ‘I’m an accountant’, or ‘I own Business Y’.

On the surface, this approach is perfectly fine. It’s legitimate information that gives people context and more than likely you feel like it tells them all they need to know about you.

The problem is that it’s not engaging. Not that the person you’re talking to doesn’t care… but they don’t really care. You’ve shared some facts, rational data, but there’s nothing emotional, there’s no story in what you’ve shared.

Think about when you’ve been on the other side of that exchange – were you thinking ‘Wow – an accountant…! I bet there’s a super exciting backstory there…’. Probably not. Most likely you were actively thinking about what you were going to say (your name and what your title is…), leaving you both with a very unsatisfying and en-engaging discussion.


Here’s a better option for engagement

I was reminded of this idea the other day by the fantastic Frank Keck. Frank owns a company called CoreBuild Solutions, and what he’s really passionate about is helping companies (and people) understand who they are, what they value and how to create a strong, positive culture that builds on all of that.

In his talk to our group the other day, Frank made the excellent point that it’s emotion and your story that really engages with another person. So when you meet someone, rather than asking them what they do, ask them ‘Why’ they do what they do? Or maybe ask them what they’re passionate about.

In either case, you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised with the turn that your conversation takes. Rather than going through the motions of a dry introduction, you’ll find yourself in an actual, engaging discussion that may take you places that you never expected.

This is especially true when you reciprocate with some emotional insights of your own. What drives you? What do you love to do? Why do you get out of bed in the morning on those days that you’re excited about your work? And if you’re not excited now – what were you initially excited about when you started your company or started the job?

*Note – this only works if you are legitimately interested in what the other person has to say. If you’re trying to score points, or sell something or just present yourself in a specific way, it’s likely that this discussion is going to fall flat (best case) or come across as manipulative in some way.


Engage your employees

The other way this idea can pay big dividends is when you are able to have these kinds of discussions with your employees or people on your team. There’s a great outcome of getting someone to open up about what they’re passionate about; You start to see them as an interesting individual. Not friends, exactly, but a lot closer to that than just a co-worker or a colleague. And that beginning of a deeper relationship makes a huge difference.

If you want to build engagement within your team, you have to find emotions and commonalities. People will do tasks because it’s expected of them as part of a job. People will drive to great outcomes because they’re part of a team they know, like and trust and they want their team to win.

That’s what engagement is all about – and it starts with truly getting to know people’s stories. Getting to know what makes them tick and opening up to them.

Full disclosure – this is much easier said than done for many people. It requires a level of vulnerability and self-awareness that’s not natural for many of us and isn’t always easy to achieve. However, it can be a complete game changer if you can even get close to that.

Want to have better, more interesting and more impactful networking opportunities? Want to connect with team members and employees in a real way and create engagement?

Start asking about what drives them and be willing to open up about what you’re excited about.

What do you think? Is this the kind of discussion you’ve had with team members (or with people you network with)? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach