Whether it’s drinks with clients or a critical meeting with a potential investor, if you’re in business, interacting with strangers is part of the program.
If this doesn’t come naturally to you, the reality can be draining. But it’s easily solved with a few choice words, Ghostwriter.com founder Bill Murphy Jnr. writes in Inc this week.
Murphy has come up with a cheat sheet of open-ended questions that can be used as a scaffolding to make a killer first impression.
There’s nothing elaborate here: he starts with “Hello” and “I’m happy to see you”. But Murphy says these basic icebreakers have helped his own confidence immensely, and they’re easy to internalise.
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The key is being interested in other people’s challenges, recognising their strengths and staying open to their ideas.
Picking out an element of a colleague or employees’ work and starting with “I’m really impressed by the way you …” can engage someone, says Murphy, and it doesn’t even have to be about your work.
“If you know the person a bit, you might say that you’re impressed by how they always have great stories about the weekend, or always eat healthy food in the office,” Murphy says.
When developing your own set of go-to icebreakers, it’s all about being positive and coming up with things that will prompt a reaction in the other person—even if you’re setting limits on your own time, Murphy says.
He ranks the phrase “thanks, but I can’t” as one of the top sentences to gain respect from others and to achieve the outcome you want.
“This is an easy catch-all. Thanks for the invitation to go on a date, or come to work for you, or play a trick on that guy over there—but I just can’t do that,” he says.
Read Murphy’s full cheat sheet here.
This article was originally published on SmartCompany.