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On Discovering Another Person

The posts below describe, in different ways, how your curiosity and attention can lead to a greater sense of relatedness and trust with someone else. It can also fulfill your own needs for connection throughout the day, and even be a source of joy.

Blog: Taking off the mask

Blog: What to do when you’re in a room full of strangers

LinkedIn: Want better relationships? Try this Zen technique

Related to the Additional Exercise this Week

Blog: The Appreciation Test

Related Chapters in Working Out Loud:

  • Chapter 5 - Building Relationships

  • Chapter 14 - Deepening Relationships Through Contribution

Additional Exercises & FAQ

Something you can do in less than 10 minutes

Review your list of 50 facts, and think of people on your list that might also have one or more of them. (If you’re uncertain, think of colleagues or someone in your Circle who might share a fact with you.) Perhaps they have children too, for example, or have an interest in food or sports or travel.

Then, during one of your conversations today, ask them a question or share something related to that fact. It could be as simple as “How are your children doing?” or “I was thinking of that place we both like. When was the last time you were there?” or “I know you like food, and found a new restaurant you might like.” As you do, focus on being genuinely curious and helpful, and pay attention to their response.

Notice how they react, and how you feel.

Something you can do in less than 15 minutes

This exercise is similar to the one above, except that you’ll pick someone from your list that you don’t know well but with whom you’ll have a conversation in the coming week.

Ask them a question to learn about one of their facts.

Depending on who you are, this may be easier or more challenging than the exercise above. Some of you might find it nosy, presumptuous, or even rude to ask a “personal question.” If you’re uncertain or uncomfortable, you can try this exercise with someone you do know well.

Q: I have no idea how to share a fact. It feels awkward.

You’re not alone. I know many people struggle with sharing their facts.

The point of the exercise is simply to help you realize that you have SO MANY things to offer that could be the basis of a meaningful connection between you and someone else. Maybe you ask more questions, for example, or pick up on cues you hadn't noticed before. Just being more mindful can lead to establishing or deepening more relationships.

For more specific instructions on what you might do, see the tips in the next column.

Q: I liked the 50 Facts exercise, but I don’t quite see what it has to do with WOL.

Imagine you’re in a large room full of people you don’t know. You feel slightly awkward, unsure where to start, as you continue to look for familiar faces. Then, amidst an attempt to make small talk with someone, you discover you have something in common, and you grab onto it, like a rope connecting the two of you.

Maybe you shared a small thing, like where you were born or went to school or that you have children of the same age. Or maybe it’s something you experienced, like losing someone to a disease, or suffering from one yourself. Almost instantly, knowing you have a fact in common changes your sense of relatedness, and that increases trust and the willingness to exchange more information or cooperate in some way.

Now imagine that room is actually your company, full of thousands of people from across the world. What makes you “you” is already enough to establish meaningful connections with many of them.

Examples, Templates & Media

If you’re wondering about my favorite holiday destinations, click on the photo to see some of them in Japan.

If you’re wondering about my favorite holiday destinations, click on the photo to see some of them in Japan.

3 Tips for Sharing “A Fact About You”

#1. Share something you love: If you like something, say something. Maybe you’re a foodie and found a new place, or read a book or watched a documentary that inspired you, or traveled to a place others might enjoy. Share that experience. If you know someone else who enjoys food, books, movies, or travel, then share it directly and frame it as a contribution: “I loved this and thought you might enjoy it too.” If you’re unsure of who’s interested, you might share it publicly.

Just this week, I happened to mention where I spent the winter holidays, and a woman had traveled to that same place years ago. She went on to say it was part of a 4-month journey, and led to an interesting conversation. That fact served as a bridge that allowed us to cross into other territory, and changed how we saw each other in a lovely way.

#2. Ask questions: When you don’t know someone well, ask questions. Your genuine curiosity can be a gift of attention. Keep in mind that some questions may be sensitive for certain people - “Are you married?” “Do you have children?” “What religion are you?” - so don’t make any assumptions. But benign questions like, “Where did you grow up?” give the other person the chance to talk about themselves, their family, and their experiences - and thus lead to more questions.

#3. Pay attention: Many people will give clues about their “Facts” without explicitly stating them. Perhaps they have a photo on their profile or desk. That makes it okay to ask about it. “How old are your children?” “Where was that ski photo taken?” Again, your genuine curiosity can be a gift if you offer it in the right way. If your intention is to “find out” about the other person, then it may come across as too aggressive or downright creepy. But if you’re simply looking for the basis of a shared connection, it can lead to a sense of relatedness and greater trust.

Art by Conrad Bakker

Art by Conrad Bakker