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A couple of podcast episodes ago I mentioned in passing that someone once told me to always keep a story in my back pocket so when I ran into someone on the street or attended a networking meeting, I could answer the inevitable question, “What’s new?” with more than the typical, “Nothing.”
Since we talk so much about storytelling I thought this was an idea worth revisiting. Because remember, your story is more than just how you started your business. It’s everything.
Every social status update and every web page and every conversation. You are always revealing another little bit of your story.
Unless you say, “Nothing.”
Tell Me If You Can Relate
The phone rings and it’s someone you haven’t talked to in a while. You say pleasant hellos and then what’s the first thing they always ask?
Maybe you ask it too.
And what’s the first thing you answer?
Well, if you’re like me, you go into auto-responder mode and say something like, “Nothing…” or “Not much…” or “Same old, working, keeping busy…”
If you’re like me you also want to facepalm afterwards and then half an hour later you think of the cool thing you should have said.
So That Got Me Thinking
How is that possible? How can days, weeks, months and even years go by and yet the moment someone hits you with the “what’s new” question, your first instinct is to say, “Not much.”
Maybe you’re not like me and you always think of something fascinating and brilliant to say. If that’s the case, enjoy your day and I’ll catch up with you next time!
But if you find yourself going into auto-nothing mode whenever someone asks you what’s new, then let’s rethink this one together.
First Of All, That Is Truly The Worst Question Ever.
It’s like sitting down to dinner with your family after you’ve all been scattered doing your own thing, and asking, “How was your day?”
End of conversation.
If you have kids, I bet you’ve been through that routine before. Does the phrase “pulling teeth” come to mind?
Some questions inspire conversation and some kill it. The irony is that when it comes to social media, we’re taught to ask the very kind of questions that will kill a conversation in the real world.
On Facebook, we’re advised to ask a simple yes/no question that someone can answer with an offhand click of the like button or a one-word response. We’re told not to ask questions that make people think or that require anyone to type out a lengthy response.
Those are the tricks we use to “boost engagement”.
But what works to get around EdgeRank won’t work when you’ve got to talk to an actual human being.
That’s when real social skills come in. Our first challenge is to re-learn how to engage people in the real world. That starts with ditching throwaway questions like “what’s new” and coming up with something truly engaging.
We all want to build relationships with our clients and customers. And we network the heck out of ourselves to make connections. So how about paying attention and leaving meaningless chatter behind?
Imagine someone’s delight when you remember to check in on their progress with a big project/major event/family vacation!
And by the way, this can work online, too. Asking simple questions may get a lot of “likes” in acknowledgment but it won’t exactly deepen a relationship or tell a story.
Plenty of people have proven that you can ask meaningful questions and get meaningful replies. This is more of a challenge if you’re doing it through your Facebook business page, for example, because we know that the average reach of any post is rather abysmal.
But as “you” – as a person – you can have some great success with deep questions. Just ask Ian Anderson Gray. He is the master of blog-post-as-social-status-update and his questions on social media generate hundreds of responses.
Which Leads Me To My Second Point
Smart people practice the art of conversation and ask better questions. But even the best of us fall back on lazy questions sometimes, and you can’t really blame anyone for asking them… it’s a habit we’ve formed over many, many conversations that isn’t easy to break. I bet most people never give it a second thought.
So there’s bound to be a day or two or a hundred when someone asks you, “What’s new?”
And what are you going to say?
I’ll tell you what you’re not going to say!
Trust me, you are not that boring.
I think what we’re really saying when we say, “Nothing” is “Nothing worth mentioning.”
And in that answer we do ourselves a great disservice.
Every day we accomplish something, we achieve something, we learn something. Value that – and I bet you’ll find something more than “nothing”.
I challenge you right now to come up with something that you can say if you picked up the phone and the person on the other end asked, “What’s new?”
Think of it like a little daily elevator pitch. Whether it’s a client, a colleague or someone you ran into at the last meetup, your answer is not only part of your story but it’s also marketing – of you.
So, dear reader…