What do I say to her?

When you’d like to get to know a colleague, but don’t know how to start

Building a community at work requires taking time to get to know your colleagues from different parts of the organization. However, for a LOT of people, this is easier said than done.

Have you ever walked up to a colleague to introduce for the first time and felt a bit awkward? Suddenly, fears from your early teenage years rush through your body: “Will this person reject me?” “How will I survive?” Don’t beat yourself up; this inclination is wired into our systems and will pass within a minute.

Overview


  1. Just Do It 

  2. Start the conversation with an easy question

  3. Find out what they’re interested in

  4. End the conversation early

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Just Do It


  1. Ask a colleague if they have a few minutes to talk (or invite them for a “remote coffee”) with the simple reasoning that “it’s important for me to know who my colleagues are.” It’s hard for any working professional to reject such an invitation.

Sidebar

The worst thing the person can do is tell you that they don’t have time. Don’t take it personally! Maybe the person is shy, or not feeling well, or running late. We’ve all been there.

Sidebar

By starting the conversation with a question that the person can easily answer, you create a relaxed atmosphere and the the person feels more in control. They will happily tell you what they do.

How to follow up spreads

Start the conversation with an easy question


  1. Say, “Tell me about yourself. What’s your role in the organization?”

  2. Listen closely to what your colleague says and how they say it. Your purpose is to get to know the person, so listen for clues regarding what they care about.

  3. Ask follow-up questions. This is where you can get the most interesting information. Plus, it shows the person that you really are listening.

  4. Share some information about yourself. This creates a more balanced and natural feeling in the conversation.

How to REMEMBER

Sidebar

Asking "How do you spend most of your time?" relaxes the person because it gives them a lot of freedom regarding what to talk about.  The person usually chooses something that they are more interested in (e.g. a work project, a novel they’re currently reading, or coaching their daughter’s soccer team, etc.) breathing life into the conversation.

Find out what they’re interested in


  1. Ask “How do you spend most of your time?” (L. Lowndes)

  2. Listen carefully to the details, as they can tell you a lot about who the person is: background, interests, goals, etc.

  3. Ask follow-up questions: What does he/she love most about the job? How long has his/her daughter been playing soccer? etc. This shows the person that you’re genuinely engaged (as you should be) and that you are interested in him/her as a person.

  4. If you have a similar interest, be sure to mention it. This is a great opportunity to build trust.

  5. Be prepared to share some information about what is most important to you (a work project, your family, other passions) in case the person asks. However, you don’t need to volunteer this information if the person doesn’t ask.

Sidebar

If you and your colleague are having an amazing connection, don’t feel pressured to end it prematurely. However, still show respect for your colleagues time by asking if they have to go. If your colleague says they’re happy to keep talking, then feel free to continue.

What To Ask about

End the conversation early


  1. Keep track of time. Even if your colleague appears happy to keep talking, this may be out of politeness, and you don’t want to take up too much of their time.

  2. Pay attention to the person’s body language; it can can give you a lot of information about whether or not he/she is growing impatient and would like to end the conversation. You never want the other person to feel trapped in a conversation.

  3. Once you both have shared some information about yourselves (After 5-10 minutes), say “it was really nice getting to know you and I hope we have a chance to speak again.” By giving your colleague a way out, their motivation to speak with you again will increase

  4. Wish your colleague a good day.

Sidebar

Conclusion


The purpose here is not to become a master conversationalist, or the person that everyone wants to talk to at a social event. The purpose is to build genuine relationships, which is less about skill and more about intentions.


It’s much more pleasant to work in an organization where colleagues spend a bit more time getting to know each other and feel a sense of community. The next time, someone invites you for a cup of coffee, think twice before saying no, or at least suggest another occasion.

References


Leil Lowndes - "How to Talk to Anyone"

Reflection questions:


  • When can you schedule time to talk with a colleague in order to get to know him/her?

  • How can you do this with remote colleagues whom you won’t bump into?

  • What can you do to make this into a habit, so that it becomes part of your regular work routine, not just a one-time effort?