Are You Unwittingly Telling People You’re Boring? Answer This Question To Find Out.

Are You Unwittingly Telling People You’re Boring? Answer This Question To Find Out.

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.

“What’s new?”

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?”

“Fine.”

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!

“Nothing.”

“Not much.”

“Same old.”

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…

What’s new?

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

I'm a business owner, content creator, podcaster and marketer. In 1999 I founded Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio, with my husband and business partner Ralph. In 2011 we created Web.Search.Social, a consulting and marketing service line for small businesses. We also cohost the Web.Search.Social Podcast where we challenge the status quo of marketing and the Carbon Based Business Units podcast where we talk about the human side of being an entrepreneur. On any given day I wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. My true passion is writing and in my spare time I'm busy planning my early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera
  • “What’s new?”

    I’m taking my car in for repairs today. The left rear window is down about five inches and it won’t budge in either direction. I stuck my head under the dashboard, removed the cover to the fuse box, and realized the fuse that operates that window’s motor is blown. I tried replacing the fuse … four times … and each new fuse immediately blew out. So there’s obviously a short in the electrical system. UGH.

    This wouldn’t be such a big deal except it’s not safe to leave your windows down in a parking lot (Yeah, my make and model of vehicle gets stolen A LOT.) And it’s going to be 113 degrees today, 114 tomorrow, and 115 the following day. My car’s air conditioner can’t work efficiently with a doggone window down. Staying cool in this kind of wicked heat is kinda important.

    So, there. That’s what’s new with me. Aren’t you glad you asked? 😉

    • That was ONE HUNDRED degrees of something?? Holy mackerel. It’s funny because sometimes I actually DO answer “what’s new” with an actual answer and then I always feel compelled to say…. aren’t you glad you asked? lol

      Well, they DID ask!

      At least you knew enough to look at the fuse. I would’ve got “the man” and left it at that. Please stay cool!

      • Let’s face it. We sometimes feel a twinge of regret when we ask that question, especially when we’re pretty sure we’re going to get an earful! 😉

        My car is with “the man” as we speak (much to my chagrin). I could have easily replaced the motor in the door myself. It’s not rocket science and those motors are standard parts used in loads of makes and models and they’re readily available. However, the temp in our garage right now is akin to the Sahara, which doesn’t make for a comfortable work space. The only challenging, time-consuming part of the project is removing the door panel. So this time around, it was better to hand my vehicle over to “the man”. 🙂

        As the British would say …
        It’s bloody HOT today!

        • Once in a while you just have to let THE MAN do it. Especially when it’ bloody hot!

          • Yeah, even when “THE MAN’s” fees are akin to gangster money.

            Don’t get me wrong. I have respect for auto mechanics, especially those you know do good work. However, I sometimes wish I didn’t have knowledge of what some of these fix-it projects entail. Most of them are pretty simple procedures so I get a little crazy when they hand me the invoice for “parts and labor”. Ignorance is bliss … only I’m not ignorant.

            Mind you, I don’t begrudge any business owner the right to make oodles of money. I just feel, overall, the cost of vehicle maintenance and repairs is way out of line. Outrageous, really. And God forbid you own a BMW and need an oil change. Luckily, I own a Honda. 🙂

          • Funny you say that… we currently have (lease) a BMW. And it is the BEST car to maintain. A few years ago we had a Nissan and that piece of @*)$&@# cost me thousands in oil changes, filter changes, brake pad changes, whatever. Because it is leased you have to do what they say or void the warranty, right?

            But with the BMW you pay for NOTHING. If something goes wrong? Fixed. Need an oil change? Done. Replace the brake pads? Included. AND they wash your car 🙂 The only thing you pay for is if you break something – like if I rip off the radio knob then I pay for that.

            The thing about most modern cars is that everything is computerized and electronic so repairs cost a ton of money since everything is some super high tech rare part.

            On another note, I also think most mechanics are crooks. I’ve dealt with enough to know they lie, cheat and steal, which is sad for the ones who don’t. When you find a good one you have to hang on for dear life.

          • Sounds to me like “leasing” a BMW is the way to go! Good to know and good for you and Ralph! Their leasing perks are FAB. Otherwise, I’m sure those items would cost an arm and a leg … cause mechanics are crooks. Not all of them, thank goodness. But definitely the majority. And they just love to take advantage of women, in particular!! And elderly folks. 🙁

  • I sure did need my butt kicked about my Facebook page… Well, I have fallen off Google+ as well. But, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Right now, I will focus on FB. As I was listening to you, in all your wisdom, I was hatching a plan of attack…. I love your little kicks in my butt. I understand my mission, It is in the correct place on my GTD list and I have a plan of action..
    Once again.. Thanks..

    • :::commence butt kicking::::

      Of course having a GTD is more worthy of applause! You are pretty awesome about trying stuff out and making things happen!