Healthy Leaders


How to Connect With Anyone by Asking 5 Questions

Paul SohnPaul Sohn

All my life I’ve been asking myself, “Who can I connect with whom?” I am naturally hard-wired to see the world as a web of relationships and I get excited by the prospect of connecting people within my web. Not because they will like each other, but rather because of what they will create together. The mantra I operate on is “1 + 1 makes 3. Or 30. Or 300. ”

Entering a new career transition as an entrepreneur and leadership coach/consultant, I am constantly finding ways to build connections with people. I have come across five types of questions that have helped me to improve my emotional connectivity with people. I hope you’ll find the following helpful in building your relational intelligence.

  1. Establish Common Ground

Are you able to quickly identify things which you have in common? Whether that is your blood type, the month you were born, your ethnic background, alma mater, organization you work for, hobbies or mutual friends, my number one objective is to start a conversation based on something we share in common. This ignites our conversation and helps to take it to the next level. Finding common ground is the lubricator of the relationship engine.

Simply start looking around. What do you notice in the other person by which you can ask questions to create resonance and commonality? Here are some examples.

  1. Ask Questions the Other Person Wants To Hear

This is second nature to master connectors. They are Jedi-masters when it comes to reading between the lines. They intuitively know what the other person wants to be asked.

Here’s a normal response from an average questioner:

Now, here’s a normal response from an exceptional questioner:

Did you catch the difference? In the second scenario, Person B intuitively knew that Person A brought up the question because Person A wants to share his/her experience. That’s why Person B gave a general reply and quickly turned around with the same question to Person A. If you really think about it, a lot of the questions people ask are questions they want to be asked.

Here are more examples:

In the first question, the person isn’t confirming whether you know that Jim went to Hawaii. The question implies a desire; “I want to go to Hawaii too.” In the second question, the person isn’t really asking for which clubs you were involved with in college, but rather this person wants to share about his/her student club experience during college. Same logic for the third question. The person is more interested in sharing his thoughts on the best books he is reading. Exceptional connectors intuitively know this because they are always others-focused.

  1. When You Ask, Use “Half Open-Ended Questions”

Generally, there are two types of questions ‒ a closed-ended question and an open-ended question. Here’s an example of each of these two types of questions:

We ask these questions all the time. When we meet people for the first time and ask closed-ended questions, the conversation may abruptly halt, creating awkward moments. When you use open-ended questions, the question is so big and abstract that the person responding may have difficulty knowing how much information to share.

Instead, employ the “half open-ended question” method. This is when you inject more specificity into the open-ended question method. Here are a few examples:

A small thing like adding a bit more specificity can make all the difference.

  1. Use Questions to Elicit Interesting Episodes

Master connectors learn from one of the most commonly used interview strategies today: behavioral interviews. “General questions” (such as follows) evoke abstract responses.

Instead, behavioral interviews focus on specific, concrete examples of the past that demonstrate certain qualities. Here are a few examples:

One caveat is ensuring that you focus on both tact and tone. These questions can often sound intimidating. So it’s important to sound genuine and interested, not just like an interrogator. Here are a few examples of what it might sound like when you use this method in a conversation:

  1. Leverage the Power of Research

We live in a world where transparency is the currency of relationship and information is free on the internet. Whether it’s a blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, this creates an opportunity for master connectors to do pre-work to ask the right questions when meeting a person for the first time.

Whether preparing for an interview, going out on a date, or preparing for a networking session, I always spend 30 minutes to an hour to really research the person. I immediately think about what we might share in common. Also, I might follow the person beforehand on Twitter to see what kind of information he is interested in.

Which areas do you plan to focus on to upgrade your connection skills?

Are you interested in writing for Head on over to our Write for Us page to submit an article!

Paul Sohn