It’s the single healthiest thing you can do for your organization, relationships, partnerships, parenting or marriage. I’m convinced that’s why my parents have lasted 30 years together. Sitting down is the first and essential step toward strong communication. Make time for it. I’m not kidding.
The two most common icebreaker questions in Los Angeles are “where are you from” and “what do you do (for a living)?” Understandable, because few people actually grew up here and most relocated for their industry. A quick, cordial method to find common ground (if any) or extract details enough to build a full conversation.
The problem? These questions assume that work or geographical heritage define a person’s individuality. While some levels of personality and culture can be inferred, there is so much more to a person than his or her job or hometown. Furthermore, with jobs being the core topic (because jobs are more current and relevant than where you grew up), conversations tend to become networking events. Work sneaks out of the office and slips into your Saturday night cocktail.
I cannot argue the value of building professional relationships, but oftentimes adults forget that it is important to have other types of relationships as well. I find it extremely difficult to meet new people in Los Angeles. Worse, I find it impossible to develop relationships with people outside the film industry. I blame a lot of it on these icebreaker questions. “Oh, we’re not in the same industry? We cannot work together, so, I guess … have a good night!? Nevermind that there are so many other levels we can connect on!”
My best friends here can carry on conversations about things other than work and the movies. Makes a big difference when you’ve been on film sets all day and need a mental break. And it makes a big difference when you need to feel like a human being, rather than a workaholic robot. Science, discovery, politics, love, perspective, health, the world, philosophy … the list is endless.
Every conversation does not need to be a networking event. Try to steer your meet and greets away from conventional topics. Pay close attention to people who bring more to the table than their resume.
- Name. First name is necessary. Last name helps when looking the person up afterward.
- Preoccupation. What he or she does with most of his or her time (usually a career).
- Situation. When and where you met.
As long as you remember those three things, the rest should come back to you. Mention all three in your next exchange together and you can win the person’s respect.
Remember someone and they will work harder to remember you. As I always say: it’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you.