If you have a hard time breaking the ice at the beginning of meetings or when you’re first introduced to someone, the best way to overcome some of that anxiety is to have a story to tell. Every conversation needs a jump start.
Prepare a few anecdotes to share ahead of time. These should all be personal – that is something that you’ve done or experienced lately, not gossiping about someone else. Find topics that might also be of interest to the other person. For instance, if you know they have children, share a story about yours. This will immediately open the door for them to share similar experiences.
Once someone knows that you’re willing to share, they’ll immediately reciprocate by sharing stories of their own. The goal is to find something uniquely common to you both that you’ll be able to build on in every subsequent conversation.
Over the years I’ve built strong relationships this way with dozens of associates. The common ground is always different but ranges from growing up in the same town, working at the same company in the past to adopting children. There’s always something you’ll find, but it takes time and the quickest way to get there is to be the first to share.