Almost every project for us starts with research, and the most interesting part of the research for me has always been talking to people (users, stakeholders, or just random people). Getting their views, perspectives, reasons for those views, and often unarticulated insights is always fascinating and personally fulfilling. These are also critical for development of an idea without a bias.
People should enjoy talking to you, and you must genuinely enjoy the chat – only then do the deeper, meaningful insights emerge.
Here are some rules that I follow:
1. Make and sustain eye contact: Most people don’t look into the eyes of the person they are talking to, and if they do, they quickly start looking around again. This often sends a message that you are not really interested in talking to the person. Rule one of engagement is to be deeply interested in the person, and show it.
2. Ask questions beyond small talk: Small talk often belies serious quest. People are not afraid to jump into deep talk; in fact, they love it. Rule two of engagement is to show respect for the person’s intelligence.
3. Tell stories, add to their knowledge: It shouldn’t be a one way street. If the person is giving you information, your stories will enrich him too. Rule three is to engage by talking as well.
4. Observe body language: Don’t just listen with your ears, listen with your eyes as well and make a note of what is not said. People often repeat what they have heard without meaning it. Rule four is note what people mean, note what they say.
5. Don’t be afraid to change topics: You may have multiple topics to research – when you have finished one move to the next topic. Rule five is to take the person on the ride with you.
6. Ask for help: If you did not understand what they mean, ask them straight up. They will love your directness and want to help you. Rule six is to be genuinely grateful for their help.
Try these with your colleagues – it doesn’t have to be for a project – and you will be amazed at how fulfilling these engagements can become.
Sudhir Sharma, Editor-in-Chief