Last year, I started a small experiment in my social group. I simply stopped having “I” conversations. You know, those conversations that look like this

“I went to Spain on holiday”
“I love Spain! When I went, I…”
“I did…”

Each and every sentence is a statement that begins with I. Questions are rarely asked and when they are, its mainly as a segue into telling you more about themselves.

You’ll be surprised how many people simply didn’t notice. I stopped giving up information about myself unless asked. In fact, that last time I voluntarily shared something special to me the reply was something about being king of the nerds and the very next sentence was about a recent purchase this person made and then about them missing a girl. Yeah…

What really had a profound effect on me was during my trip to Microsoft’s Ignite conference. Here are a bunch of geeks, nerds, techies, call them what you will, who all had a love for tech and a love for people, in one way or another. People I just met asked me questions not even “friends” have bothered to ask. Everyone I spoke to was interested in my view, my ideas, my experiences. And when that happens, it becomes super easy to really talk to people you have just met and find out who they really are. A person I just met loved my lip ring and wasn’t afraid to tell me. It lead on to a great convo about body modification in the work place and even about the future of embedded computers living in our cells. A simple interaction, where you aren’t thinking about what you are getting out, but what you are giving, leaves everyone walking away from the conversation enriched, happier.

Since this ‘experiment’ kicked off, I have made a conscious effort to have more interesting conversations with those around me. While most of them don’t realize and simply fall into the all-about-me, some of them have really responded. Everything from favorite bands and what songs mean to them to life goals, from fear of failing at life to celebrating achievements together, this simple change has allowed me to really get to know people and for those paying attention, really get to know me.

My advice, don’t be scared of the big questions when with friends, and never, ever respond to an “I” statement with your own “I” statement. Step away from using people to tell them about how great you are. People pick up on these things more than you realize. And if you want to know something, just ask. It may lead you to your next great conversation.