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Shy ? Stuck for how to talk to others - Here are some suggestions.

We’ve all been in the awkward situation of meeting someone new and having to build rapport quickly — in a bar or club, at networking events, industry conferences, charity events, dinner parties, and other social-professional situations or even if and when meeting a lovers family and friends for the first few times. If you’re like most of us - you break the awkward silence with a pretty standard question:

“So, what do you do ?”

and yes this is what I was asked by Her Majness when we met and was made a Knight... ( do you believe that one.... cos if you do... I am a super hero really...) But that question might not be the best way to build rapport with someone else. In fact, it may be best to avoid talking about work entirely as many recognise too much with who they are through their work and a genuine side to the person will not be forthcoming if all you do is talk about work.

Research findings from the world of network science and psychology suggests that we tend to prefer and seek out relationships where there is more than one context for connecting with the other person. Sociologists refer to these as multiplex ties, connections where there is an overlap of roles or affiliations from a different social context. If a colleague at work sits on the same nonprofit board as you, or sits next to you in spin class at the local gym, then you two share a multiplex tie. We may prefer relationships with multiplex ties because research suggests that relationships built on multiplex ties tend to be richer, more trusting, and longer lasting.

We see this in our everyday lives: The work friend who is also a “friend friend” is far more likely to stick with you should one of you change jobs. And it goes the other way, too: People who have at least one real friend at work report liking their jobs more.

Instead, consider beginning your introductory questions with something deliberately non-work-related and trusting that the context of the meeting will eventually steer the conversation to a friendly space. Toward that end, here’s a few questions you could start with that will leave you more likely to find multiple commonalties and turn your new contacts into a multiplex tie — and maybe even a friend:

' Where are you from originally - you have an accent ?'

Many are from some place other than where they live and this opener starts a conversation that can lead anywhere.

If they answer ' Swindon' - you can say how you have never been to Swindon, and what is it like ?' - This opens up the conversation about a place you do not know but gives them a chance to share and a chance for you to learn.

" Where doi you live ? " This question has a thousand answers and a thousand answers from you as well.

What excites you right now?

This is a question that has a wide range of possible answers. It gives others the ability to give with a work-related answer, or talk about their kids, or their new boat, or basically anything that excites them. Being gay men you may also get a ore ' in depth' and X Rated answer, so be prepared for some sex talk...

What are you looking forward to doing in the future ?

This question works for the same reason, but is more forward-looking than backward-looking, allowing others to choose from a bigger set of possible answers.

What’s the best thing that happened to you this year?

Similar to the previous two, but reversed: more backward-looking than forward-looking. Regardless, it’s an open-ended question that gives others a wealth of answers to choose from.

These days it is easy to simply ask:- " How have you been in lockdown ? "


" Has lockdown been good or bad for you ? "


" Are you working or furloed ? "

Everyone has a story to tell and everyone has something they want to share as everyone has something to get off their chest.

Help shy people join in this festive season and enjoy what they have to offer as we big mouths, it is easy to dominate...

Have fun guys.


nto superheroes. Is there a charitable cause you support? Another big, open-ended question (assuming they support at least one charitable cause). It’s important to define support as broader than financial donations, as support might be in the form of volunteering or just working to raise awareness. You’re also really likely to either find shared ground or find out about a cause you didn’t know about. What’s the most important thing I should know about you? This one is effective for similar reasons as many of the above, plus it gives the broadest possible range from which they can choose. It can come off as a little forthright, so when to use it depends on a lot of contextual clues. Regardless of which question you choose, the important thing is to ask a question open-ended enough to allow others to select non-work answers if they choose. Doing so will increase the chances that you didn’t just turn a stranger into a new contact on your phone, but that you actually made a new friend.

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