In your personal and professional life, being easy to talk to is a skill worth developing.
But good conversationalists are rare.
There are plenty of people who excel at making small talk awkward.
That’s why networking events sell Miller Lite bottles for $4.
Liquid courage for those ill-prepared to engage.
You can be different.
And you can be less drunk with significantly more money in your pocket.
Two questions dominate the conversation-starting:
1. What do you do?
2. Where do you work?
These are clumsy.
The real answer to Q1 probably involves Excel, meetings and email.
Question 2 will return the name of a company. Hopefully you recognize the name. If not… you go with your gut and say, “Oh, sure… what do you do?”
Ask this instead: Where are you from?
This question creates opportunities for the respondent – and for you.
If they respond with the name of a nearby town, you now have locality in common. You can inquire about what high school they went to. If they respond with some far-flung city, ask how they ended up here.
Everyone has a story.
Where are you from? or ¿De Dónde Eres? can also break the ice with Spanish-speakers.
At Red Angle we developed the ¿De Dónde Eres? poster to help start conversations between English-speaking managers and Spanish-speaking workers.
The ¿De Dónde Eres? poster allows everyone on the team to place a thumb-tack in their hometown. This gets everyone talking. It breaks down barriers.
Hispanic workers don’t get asked this question frequently for 2 reasons.
UNO: the assumed language barrier makes both sides fear the worst, opting for silence over awkwardness.
DOS: English-speaking managers don’t value in the question because they feel they already know the response. “They’re from Mexico. They’re alllllll from Mexico.”
Roughly 65% of all Hispanics in the US are from Mexico, so if you have to guess – yeah, go with the odds. But you don’t have to guess.
You can simply say, “¿De Dónde Eres?”
About 10% of all Hispanics in the US are from Puerto Rico. Cubans, Salvadorans and Dominicans make up another 10%.
Everyone has a story.
In some cases, an entire group of employees has a story.
I recently brought a ¿De Dónde Eres? poster to a client and introduced it to 30 Hispanic employees. After half the employees placed a thumbtack on their hometown, I was informed there was no more room.
Turns out nearly everyone was from a few small towns in the state of Michoacán in Mexico.
I asked how that happened.
And a conversation ensued.
Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish language gap in the construction industry. He similblogs these posts at Professional Builder’s Housing Zone.
Categories: Construction Spanish