Without the salutation of "Happy New Year", we return to our old rote greetings or conversation starters. "What's new?" is one of the most popular.
How we answer this question could change our life and the lives of others. But instead we all tend to perpetuate an empty robotic exchange of nothingness.
I know we are "busy" and short cuts and auto-responses expedite, streamline, and generally make our lives more efficient.
But what about the unintended consequences? What is lost in the these meaningless transactions?
Everyday, we enter into many micro transactional conversations that involve these queries. Our brains are not engaged, we blurt out things in this short attention span edition of our ADDHD lives.
So someone you know or don't know innocently and probably automatically says, "What's new?"
My unscientific survey reveals these most popular and ineffective answers:
- Not much
- Keeping my head above water
- Busy. Very busy
- Same ole same ole
- Nothing to complain about
- Nada mucho, how about you?
You say you want conversations. You want want less "small talk" and more substance. And yet, your answers to this question often leads to a laughable script for the least substantive conversation possible.
Nothing. Really busy.
Yeah me too.
Wow. Weird to be able to mouth the conversation as it happens, like a movie you have seen too many times. You know what the next line is so your interest and attention fall off.
Are you a network node that leads to other people, ideas and places or are you a predictable dead end street?
We have to stop these robotic meaningless, missed opportunities to connect! And it is not just the hollow responses. It is also the duty of the initiator to follow-up. A "nothing" response can't be accepted. The lack of sincerity and veracity have to be called on the carpet.
"Nothing!" And then you launch into a list of the things you have monitored and tracked because you are a master networker. You ask about their kids, their pets, their hobbies, their charities. You are following the updates of your network. And you know from FB, Linked-in, blog posts, and the media that–"Nothing" is simply not true.
So YOU ask about the new things that your colleague is too busy or lazy to mention, to resurrect their attention and the conversation.
Do you believe in the Law of Attraction? You attract to yourself what you give your time, attention and words to—Negative or positive.
So when you have nothing to say you attract nothing.
So now change the setting to an interview. Are your answers different? Of course.
How about when your boss' boss sees you in the elevator?
How about when you meet someone you do not know who will be your next boss?
How about to a head hunter? Or a prospective new client?
The point is you may never know who you are talking to until you do.
The challenge is your brain and your mouth get into bad habits. They start talking before you think.
Pause before you answer any question? Think then speak. Listen then respond. Awaken in the moment!
Never say "nothing" or that "I'm busy". We are all busy!
Start by bragging or complaining? No way! Start with something positive.
Personal or professional? Yes! Talk about what is new that is on your mind. Work, your kids, your hobby, the book you are reading–anything and everything is available to mention.
I try to put myself in the mindset of an ambassador. How am I representing my country, my people? Who am I trying to help? How can I be authentic but also diplomatic? How can I assert my ideas without offending? How can I engage people in my work in a mutually beneficial way?
You can't win with just defense. Responding to all inquiries is good but what do you think? What will you assert or advance? Who are you trying to help–besides yourself?!
Your reputation is built on your impressions. Listen to yourself. How are you doing?
I have always asked my external teams, my sales reps, my fundraisers–anyone who interacts with the public as part of their jobs–How do you answer the question: "What's new?"
This is a softball pitch, right down the middle. You have to be ready to hit it out of the park.
I coach my teams to use this wonderful question to discuss something that is personally exciting to them about our organization. Something that is new, fresh and interesting. Something they know about. Not the elvevator pitch. Not the company line, or that last press release necessarily. Their genuine energy and enthusiasm will be contagious.
Nothing is never interesting or engaging. Nothing is worse than boring. Nothing is a lie. Nothing is not even possible.
What's new? A great question that deserves an answer. A fantastic conversation starter. Let's not waste it.
Adopting a lifestyle of mentoring and networking requires us to be the ones who put a stop to these meaningless conversations and help others make something from nothing.
Thanks for reading. John