I was having a conversation with some friends the other day about talking to people after a keynote.
When I told them that I'd rather be on the stage than talking to people one on one, they looked quite surprised.
But, the truth is, I'm really awkward one on one with people.
In a crowd, I know what to say (its often pretty planned) I know how to facilitate conversations between people, and I know how to tell stories.
One on one however, I've always struggled knowing what to say, I'm really bad at picking up cues (my wife has learned this the hard way), and paying attention has always been a… what's that shiny thing over there… a chore.
So, when people ask me what's behind my decade long journey to ask better questions, it's because they help make those one on one conversations less awkward, more productive, and easier for me to stay engaged in.
The one on one conversations still take a lot of energy and focus, but after years of developing my own curiosity and learning to ask questions that engage the other person, it's much easier.
I can get to the real issue quicker, I can hear their most important story more completely, and the number of times when I walk away embarrassed for having done or said something that didn't match the mood of the situation has gone down considerably.
Being able to have more memorable and meaningful conversations is a skill I've developed, not some natural ability I've always had.
And, while it may surprise some people when I tell them, I think it helps to know it's a skill we can all improve.