One of the aspects that I love about my job is all of the traveling. I have come to realize how beautiful America is–from the bayou in New Orleans, to the spectacle of Mt. Rainier, and to the lights of New York City–I feel so fortunate to live in such a decorated country.
Even more interesting are the people I meet. Within minutes of getting off the plane, I find myself jumping into conversations and learning about the unique family experiences of each. I’m often eager to hear their stories and share my own personal journey but of course, there are times when jet lag kicks in and I’m feeling tongue-tied!
But there’s help! I read about the FORD method the other day and it’s too good not to share. I know we all have moments when we’re not sure how to start or carry on a conversation. I’ve found these fallbacks to be tried and true and now you can use them in moments of awkwardness (or desperation).
So how does it work?
F is for Family: Depending on the age of the person, do they have brothers/sisters, kids, a spouse? How did they meet their significant other? (I find people love to tell me this story!)
O is for Occupation: What do they do for a living? What is their dream job? What is their favorite part about the work that they do? Do they have a favorite memory from work? Have they met any interesting people? Do they travel much for their job?
R is for Recreation: What do they like to do for fun? What are their hobbies? Where did they travel this past summer or winter break? What are their children interested in (if they have kids)? What are the local favorite places in town that they love to visit?
D is for Dreams: What do you hope to achieve during your lifetime? What’s on your Sunny Set? What would your dream job be? What makes you happy?
Whatever you do, try not to interview the person. Let the conversation flow naturally. I always try to pick up on little details included in the conversation and ask a secondary question about the new information they’ve provided or share a personal anecdote that relates to their story.
Of course, I find that asking for advice is always appreciated by both parties. It immediately establishes a sense of trust and respect. Even if you’re going to only be spending a few hours with someone, why stick to the small-talk? If someone is willing to share earned knowledge, gladly accept it and appreciate the gift.
Furthermore, compliments always count and can be an immediate connection. Whether it’s their clothing or their character, it’s a thoughtful way to reach out–but only if the remark is genuine. Otherwise, no can do. People gauge sincerity within seconds and it’s important that you try to be real and relatable, including any awkward jitters you might feel. I always remind myself that people who are put together while still allowing for clumsiness are the most beloved while those who are always “perfect” are less accepted (that perfection puts us on edge). I try to remember this when I’ve said the wrong thing or made a joke that fell flat. Hey, it happens.
So, next time you’re feeling a little nervous about meeting someone new, whether it’s for an apartment party, a work gathering, or a date, lean back on FORD. If there’s a great relationship in the works, the talking blossoms from this and you’ll be cruising down the conversation highway in no time. But if it doesn’t? No harm, no foul. You’ve still made a solid impression and made the effort to reach out. While not everyone will be your best friend, everyone will remember if you were nice (or not) to them in the minutes that you shared talking to one another.