Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

Exceedingly charmed

“It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.”Oscar Wilde

So, what’s the secret to being charming rather than tedious?

Take an interest – enquire.

More specifically, we need to ask the right questions. These allow the other person to open up, and the vast majority of people simply love to be asked about themselves.

Such questions are depicted in Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem:

I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.

Yet, some of these serving men are still pretty much limited in their ability. Namely: Who, where, when, what (in some circumstances eg: “What is your name?”).

If I were to ask you a string of such questions, I would elicit a series of straightforward facts and it would feel more like an interrogation. I dub these “Level 1” open questions. Barristers love these: “Just stick to the facts please Mr Kipling – where were you on the night the cake went missing?

The really rich seam is only struck when we apply what might be called “Level 2” open questions. These will usually start with a how, why or what. Using these we start to identify peoples’ real motivations, values, beliefs – in other words, what really makes them tick.

So, should Mr Kipling (I fancy a cake now!) sack some of his serving men? No, they all have a role to play, but the ones with the real power to engage are those that go beyond establishing mere facts.

I wish I’d have been aware of this distinction when I was younger and making blundered attempts to connect with girls at parties or clubs. I have a sneaky feeling that I’d have been more successful!

However, there are many other situations, whether work or social, where such questions can make all the difference – sales, negotiation, interviews, networking events and so on.

They build natural rapport and, as a result, people feel more comfortable around you.

Exceedingly charmed, Mr Kipling.

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