Did you know that right now there are people in your workplace who are dying to talk to you? People who don’t have the courage to start a conversation with someone as smart, as successful, as good looking as y-o-u.
And, I suppose, there are people in your workplace with whom you would you would like to engage in a little chin-wag.
That’s why you need to talk with Minda Zetlin.
Zetlin is the co-author of “The Greek Gap” and a columnist for inc.com. “13 Conversation Starters That Will Get You Talking With Someone You Admire” is Zetlin’s latest posting on this website for tongue-tied entrepreneurs. She knows how you feel when contemplating starting up a conversation with one of your office heroes, like the gal who delivers Dr. Pepper to the soda machine, or the guy who walks around the office, like he owns it, misting the plants.
“Do you skulk away,” Zetlin asks. “Or do you walk up to the person and start a conversation? And if so, what will you say?”
“I really like your work,” is one sure-fire conversation starter according to our author. This is a starter that is unlikely to work on you, since everyone knows you don’t actually do any work, but if you try it on someone else, there is a caveat: “Do not use this opener unless it’s true. If you really haven’t been following someone’s work, don’t pretend that you have.”
This is nonsense. Say you run into your company’s CFO at the DQ. “Really liked the way you cooked the books in last quarter’s income statement,” you say, while waiting in line for your Cotton Candy Blizzards. “The use of synthetic leases and off-shore shell companies was pure poetry.”
You certainly don’t know what sort of accounting shenanigans the CFO is using, but you can be darn sure he’s doing something. And a conversation is darn sure to start. I can’t promise, but I’ll wager the subject will be a new position for you, at triple your salary, in some sun-kissed country without an extradition treaty.
“I really love your pin/scarf/hat, etc.” is another winner of a conversation starter. Of course, this statement will work better if the person with whom you are trying to pow-wow is wearing a pin/scarf/hat, etc.
“My husband once started a conversation with Nicolas Cage,” Zetlin writes, “by asking what kind of cigar he was smoking.”
This is an accomplishment, I’m sure, but the real triumph is in figuring out a way to stop a conversation with Nicolas Cage. (I’m no expert, but mentioning “Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance” should turn the trick.)
“I like what you wrote in your last blog post” is another sure-fire conversation starter. Unless, of course, the person with whom you are trying to speak doesn’t have a blog. Granted, this is unlikely. Everyone has blogs today, even if they have nothing to say. Especially, if they have nothing to say. So, if you get the stink eye instead a conversation, don’t miss a beat. “I mean, you certainly would write something in your blog,” you say, “if you had a blog, which I would like if I could read it, which I can’t.”
That should work. If it doesn’t, you can always add, “And I sure do enjoy your podcast, too.”
“Where did you get the idea for…” is another opener recommended by Zetlin. She suggests using this starter “if the person you want to talk to has done anything creative or innovative.”
Clearly, anyone who has done anything creative or innovative will not be working at your company, but the gambit can work if you broaden the definition of innovation. Say you decide to start up a conversation with your manager. (This will certainly surprise and possibly scare your manager, since you usually spend most of the day hiding from her.)
“Where did you get the idea to act like a moron,” you could say. “Your complete inability to make rational decisions really motivates the rest of us to think up ideas on how to save to company.”
“Can I bring you a beverage?” is my own, personal fave of a way to start a confab. Get a positive response and you have the perfect excuse to head to the Kit Kat Klub, where they make a wonderful beverage, the Corpse Reviver No. 2. Note: This ploy will not work if you’re trying to talk to Nicolas Cage. He’ll hop on his Harley and track you down.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org