If you do this, I'll be your friend...

Imagine for a minute you meet a new friend at an event.

The conversation begins with pleasantries before you discover your new friend is going on a trip to your dream destination.

The questions come barreling out of you…

“How long will you be there?” and “Where are you staying?” and “Who are you going with?” and “What activities will you be doing?” and “How did you decide on the location?”

The questions keep bubbling out as your genuine curiosity and enthusiasm permeate the entire conversation.

As the conversation dies down, you exchange the usual, “It was great chatting with you,” and part ways.

And then it hits you. During the course of the entire conversation, you learned quite a bit about your new friend, but he didn’t ask you a single question.

As an outsider looking into that scenario, I ask you…

Who made the better first impression? The question-asker or the question-receiver?

Several recent studies out of Harvard have found the answer. Without a doubt, the question-asker made the best impression.

Join me this week as we understand how the follow-up question has the power to make every first impression a great one.


Our first impressions are generated by our experiences and our environment, which means that we can change our first impressions . . . by changing the experiences that comprise those impressions.

— Malcolm Gladwell

THE POWER OF THE FOLLOW-UP QUESTION

In this publication out of Harvard entitled, “It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: Question Asking Increases Liking,” researchers analyzed data from online chats and live face-to-face speed dating participants.

In 3 separate studies, the results were the same. People who asked more follow-up questions were better-liked than those who didn’t. 

Now, this idea of being “better-liked” may seem trite. And I’m not encouraging every networker to make “people-pleasing” their new goal. 

However, this data supports something we all know to be true...each of us likes feeling heard and included.

And so, if asking follow-up questions can help our prospects, friends, and colleagues feel valued and heard, then we should definitely invest in this habit (and, as a bonus, be better-liked along the way)!

So what makes a good follow-up question? Are all follow-up questions created equal?


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TIPS AND TRICKS

The most important thing you can do to ASK better follow-up questions is to PREPARE yourself to ask follow-up questions!

Have a plan to “ask 5 questions” or “learn 3 new things about so-and-so.” By setting a goal before an event or meet-up, you make your intention clear and set yourself up for success.

Now for the nitty-gritty. Here’s the list of our 6 favorite tips to help you ask better follow-up questions. 
 

  1. Ask your original question, but slightly different. Have you ever asked a question, but didn’t receive the answer you were looking for? Try again and preface it with “Let me ask this another way…” Sometimes people need another chance to expand on your question (or might’ve even forgotten it in the first place).
     

  2. Don’t ask questions that encourage one-word answers. This seems simple enough, but sometimes in conversations we forget to heed this advice. All too often we ask yes or no questions like, “Have you been working here long?” Or we ask the common pleasantry questions like, “How has your week been?”  By reframing one-word response questions you can create more meaningful conversations. Instead, try “What do you like about your current job?” Or, “What’s one great thing that happened this week?”
     

  3. Connect the dots. As the conversation continues, it’s a great idea to connect questions or answers to previous pieces in the conversation. “Oh, that’s like the time you…” or “Is that what you meant earlier when you said…” or “How does that relate to what you said earlier about…”
     

  4. Dig deeper. One way to dig deeper is to ask implication questions, like “How does that play out in the workplace…” or “What kind of support is most helpful for you…” or “How do your personal goals intersect with your work ones?” Acquiring more details about a person is great, but the more you ask questions that require a person to expand on their emotions, the more meaningful the conversation will be. 
     

  5. Embrace the silence. Especially in the early days of conversing with a new friend, silence is inevitable. However, when you embrace the silence, you make the most of your follow-up questions. By giving people space and time to process and answer questions thoughtfully, you’ll be more successful at facilitating those friendship-building conversations.
     

  6. Don’t interrupt. Seems easy enough, but I know how enticing it can be to jump into conversations with “Me too!” and “The same thing happened to me!” all in the name of making connections. While this strategy is often well-received by long-time friends, it’s important to hold your tongue in the early days of friendship-building. This gives your new friend the time and space to express their complete thoughts—without sudden interruptions.

Pro Tip: You can be a wizard at asking questions, but remember, the true gold is found when you remember the answers to the questions you asked. Don’t forget to create a note after each conversation and map your contacts. When you’re able to follow up weeks or months later and recite the information from your previous conversation, there’s no doubt your prospect or colleague is going to think, “I want to be his friend.”


Ask great questions.
Record better answers.
Build stronger networks.