Twenty-five years ago a client asked me to meet with her president for an hour-long lunch. Her president was an industry innovator. But, she told me, the president was also almost wordlessly introverted. She proposed I come prepared with a stockpile of stories to fill the conversational void.
The night before my visit, I talked with my father. He suggested an alternate plan.
My father said there is nothing people like more than to hear the sound of their own voice. Instead of telling amusing anecdotes, he suggested I ask questions.
The next day (at lunch with a reticent president) I asked question after question. The one-hour lunch stretched beyond two, and he talked almost non-stop. He waxed eloquent of his fly fishing hobby. He explored the mysteries of different fly rods. He told tales of the intricacy—and successes and failures—of tying fish flies.
After two and a half hours, he glanced at his watch astonished. He was late for his weekly executive board meeting.
A board member later laughed about that board meeting. He said that the reclusive president practically bubbled with passion about our lunch. He wanted each executive to meet me. He said I was the greatest conversationalist he had ever met.
The thing was, I hadn’t told a story. Not one. I just asked questions. Continue Reading…