Yesterday, I stopped by the front desk of my building to pick up a package.
"Hey Juan, how's it going?"
"Good, Chris. How are you."
"Doing great, thanks. Hey, how was your weekend?"
"Aw, it was good how was yours."
Wait a second, I thought. We're just skimming the surface, aren't we...
"What was good about it? What did you do? If I may ask..."
"Oh, ha, ha. Of course! I went to a friend's for a barbeque. A little outside time with this awesome weather."
"Nice!...what did you guys make?"
"Oh my friend is a real foodie -- or at least he thinks he is, ha, ha! Anyway, he's got this thing that...you know presses a pocket in the middle of the hamburger and then you stuff it with things."
"Yeah, I'm not a foodie but he put a little onion, jalapeno and some cheese in it. Oh man, it was so good! And his girlfriend made these delicious cocktails I never had. Such a good time."
"Good to have foodie friends, ha, ha! Glad you had such a nice weekend...I've always wanted to try stuffing a burger..."
You'll often hear that business is all about people and relationships.
But how often do we just stay at the surface level of conversation, saying the words, but not really connecting?
Maybe you dig in when its something about the project, the work that week, the strategy, etc.
But even here, we're often skimming the task list or arguing our ideas. Usually staying at that "professional" level of talking.
Where's the real curiosity? The desire to hear a more meaningful story? To hear something real, not generic.
And then relate to what was shared. To be happy, surprised, concerned or informed in a new way.
I could have just gotten my package from Juan with all the efficiency and arms lengthed-ness that typifies so many human interactions.
Instead, just by asking for a little more detail -- for real -- he lit up and shared a remarkable experience he had. We laughed, connected, talked further about stuffed burgers. And I learned a little more about Juan.
And I'll be making stuffed burgers when it warms up again. :)
I fully believe that a big part of whatever success I've had in my career -- in consulting, teaching and building a firm -- comes from being curious in conversation.
So next time you find yourself skimming the surface, find a place to be curious. Ask an extra question with true interest. And live with the other person in their answer -- react to it, enjoy it, build on it.
There is so much richness within the people we work with - their likes & dislikes, hobbies, lived experience, fears, challenges and aspirations.
Digging a little deeper with friendly curiosity can pay huge dividends from the relationships it builds.
Have a wonderful weekend and let me know how it really goes! ;)