A No-Fail (MLK-inspired) Approach to Deeper Connections with People

April 12, 2023


The title of this article gained a “MLK reference” on Saturday, February 11.. On that gorgeous day, I stood in the exact same spot Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Later, I soaked in all the splendor of the new MLK National Memorial. One of his famous quotes came to mind:  

People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they haven’t communicated with each other.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Elaborating on Dr. King’s thoughts, I propose we haven’t truly communicated with each other because we are too focused on trying to be interesting rather than being interested. Think of the last time you felt someone was genuinely interested in you and what you were saying. That kind of experience can feel like pure oxygen in this fast-paced, selfie-laden world. Yes. Caring is compelling. Caring is life-giving. 

When was the last time you approached a conversation armed only with customized, open-ended questions with the sole intent of learning more about another person? 

Open-ended questions are those that cannot easily be answered with a “yes” or “no.” Rather they leave the possibility of conversation wide open and encourage the speaker to elaborate. They are extremely useful in creating dialogue but don’t stop there. In every instance possible, do a bit of research so you can further customize your open-ended questions.

Whether personally at your kitchen table with your family or professionally before you take the stage, open-ended questions can rock your relationships in all the best of ways. Authentically communicate using open-ended questions and you’ll expand common ground, deepen the connectedness, and slowly transform your relationships at home and at work. 

Try out a few of my favorite open-ended questions:

Professional Relationships

  • How do you define success for this project/meeting/speaking event?
  • What does a win look like from your perspective in this particular situation?
  • Where is your favorite place to vacation?
  • What are your top areas of focus these days? Can I help you advance any of your goals?
  • In the name of continuous improvement, what would you like me to start doing? Stop doing? Continue doing?

Personal Relationships

  • What’s big in your world these days? What has your focus and attention?
  • What are your thoughts on this topic/challenge/situation?
  • What were the highlights of your trip/weekend/holiday break?
  • How can I help you achieve your goals?
  • What is it like being on the other side of me?

Dr. King truly was the king of interconnectedness. Let’s honor him this month by deepening our connections with each other. All it takes is a shift in focus. Rather than trying to be interesting…be interested. Lead out with open-ended questions and you’ll enjoy richer relationships as a result. 

susan conley

Susan Conley: The Client Loyalty Consultant

Susan Conley knows the business of client relationships and the power of loyalty economics. She has extensive expertise in the global professional services space, with decades of experience in client-focused leadership roles at EY, Andersen and Accenture. Some say Susan wears a superhero cape when a client crisis strikes. Her market-proven skills, strategies and solutions have saved a multitude of at-risk clients. Her special expertise is stepping in well before a client crisis erupts.  As Susan says, “Being proactive is far more fun and a better way to do business.” Susan launched her consulting practice, ROCKbiz, in 2010 to focus solely on next-level client loyalty. She helps professional service providers cultivate loyal client relationships because loyal clients buy more from you, recommend you to others, and advocate for you in the marketplace. Loyalty economics ROCK. Her upcoming book is titled Loyal Clients Rock: Six Client Conversations Critical for Your Business Growthwww.Rockbizinc.com

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