I recently attended a networking event to stretch the boundaries of my personal network and build some brand-new relationships with people from across the country and the world. 

I was instantly psyched to join when I learned that it would have a focus on helping the attendees bond socially.  Curiosity got the best of me about how the organizers would get a bunch of self-starter-type people to naturally start mingling with each other. The crowd would be mostly people who were into improving themselves or working on their own businesses.

When I arrived, their technique was to get us to ask light personal questions – like “Do you speak more than 2 languages?” or “Can you build a campfire?” – with bingo cards for names of those who answered “Yes” and to have us play a room-wide tournament of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

But it turned out that beyond the first hour (of an entire weekend), silly games weren’t necessary at all for us to introduce ourselves to the complete strangers around us, over and over again, because we were all there for the same reason: to forge deep connections and get to know someone new.

After the first three very personal, 30-minute conversations in a row (too many to be a coincidence, methinks), I kept thinking that this is how normal life should be.  It shouldn’t take some elaborate conference for people to share a bit of themselves with someone they just met, assuming that the “chemistry” or rapport is comfortable.  How many times have you been in a social situation and wanted to meet a new girl in the room, and thought “Eh, she probably doesn’t want to talk to me anyway.  I’d just be wasting her time”?

What if you could be pretty certain that this person would actually be very interested to hear what you have to say?  What if you were confident that you’re the kind of man that she’d want to open up to a little because she knows you’d listen?

This is the mindset that you need to have going into a conversation with someone you hope you can hit it off with.  If you’re nervous about making sure you make the conversation worth her time, you’re selling yourself short as a man with something to offer.

You have experiences, stories, and aspirations that can easily add colors to her world that weren’t there before.

You can make her feel validated by listening close and giving her thoughtful responses.

Of course, small talk has its place with helping two people get comfortable with each other before they move on to talking about deeper subjects.  What I’m saying is that you have little to lose and a lot to gain by showing some vulnerability with questions that go off of the normal cue card scripts.  Asking questions like “So what’s something you care a lot about?” or “When was the last time you got to do something totally out of the ordinary?” are doors to deep wells of cool things you can learn about her, just waiting to be unlocked.

Having come home from the event and returned to everyday life, I think it’s extremely important to hold in your mind the expectation that your social interactions with intriguing strangers do not have to be boring or forced; that they can be great.