What if all strangers at a national conference wore Bourbon-Street-style beads flaunting their first Color? Before your eyes, an individual had on an identity necklace — Green, Orange, Blue, or Gold. Bear with me on this, folks. I get my workshop participants to do this all the time.
Your first encounter is with Ms. Jones with a Green necklace. You’re thinking, okay, Ms. Jones is probably proud as heck that she’s a true expert in something and she likely hopes that YOU are a very interesting expert in whatever you do too. You know what not to do – do not get too touchy feely with personal information. She thrives on knowledge, competence and rationality. So what’s your opening line? How about, “Hi, I’m Jack. I just got to hear So-and-so talk about some intimidating research. Can I ask you what you are finding most interesting about this event?”
Mr. Smith with Gold beads is your next contact. Of course he will likely be a pretty serious dude – caring that your role at the conference is productive and he hopes that you will get on board with sound policies if they are discussed. You know to avoid overly general ideas and too much out-of-the-box thinking until you get to know the person better. Mr. Smith is all about duty and responsibility. A good opening line might be, “Today I was able to set up my workshop schedule in a matter of seconds. I haven’t had to ask a single person for directions. Is this thing well organized or what! What’s your impression?”
Moving on to Mary Clinton with a Blue necklace, you expect “touchy-feely” to be okay with her. Bottom line, she is an idealist and will likely be hugely interested in harmonic relationships – whether between two ordinary human beings or between nations on a pathway to lasting peace. You avoid conversation that is strictly business with Mary because she will be looking for a window to establish some kind of personal relationship with you. Be prepared for a conversation that may involve a large gamut from pets and children to world peace itself. Looking at her name badge, you might make your opening line, “Hello, Mary, I see you’re from Warrenton, Missouri. Believe it or not, I lived near there for three years a long time ago. Can you still board the train to St. Louis there?”
Next, Bob Nelson has Orange beads on. The odds are good he likes action of many kinds. He is a free-agent in life, loves his freedom to move about, will take risks, will negotiate masterfully, and will be the most likely to want to have fun. You do not want to discuss anything in painstaking detail because he will be bored quickly, and especially do not hand him anything to read. Orange Bob will want you to get to any point quickly and won’t need much sugar-coating or schmoozing. And Bob likes options – so selling him on one idea might not work. An opening line? Try something like, “I’m Jack. So far it’s been all work and no play today. I see you don’t have a drink yet. Can I get you one?”
So how do you create opening lines when your new friends aren’t wearing “their Colors”? That’s a subject for another blog entry, but here are a few hints: Extraverts are easier to read than introverts. And there are some questions that will reveal temperament preferences quickly. For example, “I think I’m going to volunteer to help plan the next conference. If you could plan one like this, what would you do differently?” This question will often net a full list – a treasure chest of the values and needs of a particular temperament.