12 brilliant questions that will make people remember and love you more in 2021
Shortly before the pandemic, I had an idea.
Many people find networking uncomfortable. So, I shared a few tips: a series of must-have questions that I’ve developed over the years as an author and journalist, which almost always inspire people to open up and talk about themselves.
Now, after 18 months of social distancing, remote working, and other societal responses to the pandemic, I think we need a new list of icebreaker questions.
What makes a good icebreaker, especially if you own a business or meet people on a professional basis? I think they generally have three things in common:
- First, these are open questions. As long as the other person involved wants to play the game, they are not normally answered simply with “yes”, “no” or some other one-word answer.
- Then, they’re worded in a way that makes it easy for the other person to respond with a response that is at least partially upbeat, upbeat, and even funny. They are therefore more likely to associate their memory of you with positive emotions.
- Finally, they’re designed to elicit interesting responses that you won’t have a hard time paying attention to. This is crucial because the main thing is to start a conversation, not just to get information and move on. You have to listen.
Like many things in life, these are easier to explain with examples. So here are a dozen great ideas to get you started.
Some of them are specific to a pandemic; others are just things that I think will work well in a post-pandemic world, where people will meet again. Let’s start with a simple:
1. Was there a silver pandemic liner for you?
I like this one to begin with because it addresses the elephant in the room -; the pandemic -; but he does so with an optimistic assumption. When it works well, you will hear about something positive, and that memory will now be linked to their memory of you.
Maybe the person you’re talking to appreciates spending more time with their family. Maybe they’ve learned a new skill that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Maybe they’ve made a big change and learned something about themselves.
Of course, not everyone has had an overwhelmingly positive experience during a global pandemic! Maybe they’ve suffered a real loss, but asking the question this way gives them control over how much to share. In the worst case, you move on to another question.
2. What part of your job would you like to do more of?
This is a particularly interesting question for a business owner or boss to ask his employees. Again, it starts with positivity and the assumption that the person enjoys their job.
Plus, even if it’s laid off casually, it can give you valuable insight. And as the person responds, it usually leads to a story: “I like to do X, because it allows me to do Y.”
3. How do you think we would have handled the pandemic if it had happened 10 or 20 years earlier?
Personally, I think about this question all the time. What if we hadn’t had reliable high-speed internet and video conferencing? Forget. Imagine if we had to do this in the 1980s, when making a long distance phone call was billed by the minute.
I love that this question can reveal something about what’s important to the person you’re talking to. For example, a young single person without children might ask this question of a working parent and find out from their response that they have had very different experiences.
4. What is the best purchase you have ever made for remote working?
I think half of the things I have in my home office are the result of asking people this ice-breaking question. It can also cause people to explain that they haven’t really been able to work from home, which can lead to all kinds of other interesting requests.
Again, this starts with a positive assumption -; that this other person managed to cope -; but allows him to control the terms of the response.
5. What is the most interesting thing that you have read or watched that you might not have had otherwise?
It’s sort of a 21st century edition of “Read some good books lately?” ”
I like to ask this question just because there’s a hook: the pandemic (although they’re really free to tell you about anything they’ve read or watched). Plus, since people don’t read books like they once did, I also like to extend it to things they’ve watched.
Again: it’s a bit of a silver lining issue. You’ve been introduced to something good (whatever you’ve read or watched), as a result of something bad (a global pandemic).
6. What worried you at the start of the pandemic that was not a problem at all?
That’s a very good question. It incorporates both positive results (that wasn’t a problem after all!) And shared experience -; because I think a lot of us were worried about things that didn’t happen.
In my case, I might point out that in March 2020 I bought about $ 200 worth of pasta and sports drinks that I stored in our basement and then went to two ATMs for be able to withdraw $ 1,000 in cash. At the time, I had in mind that the grocery stores would close and that there could be a run on the banks. Fortunately, I was far away.
7. What exactly were you doing a week or a month ago?
It’s a great game because it starts with a quick puzzle you can do together (Wait, what was the date a week ago? What day of the week was exactly a month ago?)
Then it’s a little memory exercise, and on top of that, it allows the other person to control their story.
For example, maybe a month ago I was going to the beach. But if I wanted to be very specific, maybe I was running around my vacation home, trying to remember where I had left my swimsuit to dry. Or maybe I was playing with my daughter on the bumper cars on the promenade.
It’s up to me to choose how to tell it: clear facts, a funny specificity or a funny memory.
8. How did you get your first job?
This one’s great: it’s so open it might have nothing to do with the pandemic, and it gives the other person permission to walk into the past.
I think most of us have fond memories of our first jobs, although we didn’t particularly like the job because those jobs remind us of our younger and greener being.
9. How do you plan to get your 15 minutes of fame?
This one is pretty close to a time I used to ask before the pandemic, except I like to ask for it now assuming the person hasn’t had a “15 minute” experience yet.
If they got a good one, they’ll probably tell you. But if not, that question may get them thinking about what they want for the future, or what they expect to happen – combined into some sort of comedic package.
10. Do you remember the first time you won a trophy or a medal?
Again: we start with a positive assumption, which is that you got some reward. For most people, that was probably a long time ago, which makes it easier to tell the story without false humility. Or, maybe it will give you ideas or be fun.
11. What is the item of clothing that you have owned the longest?
If someone has kept an item of clothing for years, they either really like the way it looks or it reminds them of a good experience. Either way, there’s going to be a story, and it’s probably a positive one.
12. Did you have a Zoom shirt?
Didn’t we all have Zoom shirts? I like to put this one in the past tense. The pandemic may not really be over, but at least expressing it like that shows optimism.