An Essential Element for Building a Relationship

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We’re in our final days in Kas, Turkey. The visit here ranks up there among our top spots of the past year. While we love the big cities, we also love the downtime we find in small towns and villages. Kas is slow, easy, and beautiful. It’s a great place to recuperate from busy days in a big city.

As we travel, we end up eating meals with various people. We’re desperate for someone to talk to other than one another. We’re always on the lookout for dinner companions. Sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Over the past week, we had dinner with a lawyer from New York and, on another night, drinks with a Turkish couple.

The New York lawyer was fun, interesting, and easy to talk to. He shared stories, and we shared stories. It was an odd coincidence that he had come to Kas after leaving Bangkok, just like us. He’s taking a month-long break between jobs. It’s always nice to chat with an American, because we aren’t seeing many lately.

The Turkish couple wasn’t nearly as much fun. It turns out that they’re siblings, not spouses. They vacation together for a couple of months each year. They’re both older and retired. The sister speaks great English. The brother doesn’t. The conversation, especially when the sister wandered in and out, was challenging.

The couple are renting the apartment under us. They come back to Kas every summer and have for years. They love the town and know their way around. Unfortunately, they didn’t have much to say or many questions to ask us. We had to keep the conversation going.

I asked questions—lots of questions. Lisa and I tag-teamed and bounced back and forth with one question after another. We kept it going for two hours until we started to run out of gas. Unfortunately, the way we were seated—outside on a small balcony overlooking the sea—made it challenging to start the process of leaving. Finally, I had to be direct and move us toward departure. I said something smooth like “We’d better get going” and stood up.

I’ve had awkward conversations before. I’ve had it happen at networking lunches. Sometimes things don’t work. Be ready for it to happen, because it’s inevitable if you’re building relationships. When you step into that bizarre conversational twilight zone, you need to have your questions ready. Start asking, keep asking, and listen to the answers so you’ll hear opportunities to ask more questions.

Once you get them talking, keep them talking. Let them go on and on. Nod, make listening noises, and keep following up with more questions. You can be fairly certain that the talker is enjoying the interaction no matter how painful it may be for you. Nearly everyone enjoys responding to an interested questioner. Keep asking.

I’m hopeful that our Turkish friends had more fun than we did. We were worn out afterward from thinking so hard in order to keep things moving. Hopefully, they had no idea how awkward we felt. Hopefully, they ended the evening thinking we found them fascinating.

We’re leaving Kas and our downstairs neighbors tomorrow. I’ll report in next week from our next stop.

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