4 cringeworthy networking questions no one should ever use — and what to say instead

Small talk with a stranger doesn’t always come easily. Kudos to networkers for putting ourselves out there and making an effort to connect! With that being said, some make connections easier than others — especially those who use lines like the ones below.

The following are lines I’ve overheard at mixers, conferences, and meet and greets on my networking journey.  The first line is what I heard. The second line is what I think would’ve made a better impression.

1. “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”

This was asked by someone trying to be funny who’d obviously been to the open bar more than once already that evening.

What they should’ve asked instead: “Why did you decide to attend this event?”

This open-ended question would’ve allowed quick bonding and uncovered details for asking follow up questions. For example, if the response was, “I’m here because my boss made me.” He could’ve replied, “Are you an introvert? I am and these things can be so uncomfortable.”

2. “Is this what business casual looks like these days?”

Rude, right?

What they should’ve asked instead: “I love your (hair, suit, bag, etc.)! Say this only if the compliment is sincere.

This question can prompt follow ups like: “Who’s your stylist?” Or “Do you have a favorite designer?”

3. “What is THAT?”

This question was accompanied by an “Ew!” facial expression and finger point at the appetizer 3/4 of the way to the attendee’s open mouth.

What they should’ve asked instead: “That looks interesting. Do you like it?”

Everyone loves food. Asking someone their opinion on the menu can suggest follow up questions like: “What else is on the appetizer table? Any recommendations?”

4. “Tell me something good.”

Asking open-ended questions is a good thing, but one this open forced the other person to search their memory banks for so long, the silence got awkward.

What they should’ve asked instead: “What’s the best thing that’s happened to you so far this week?”

This gives a time frame for your companion’s memory search allowing them to answer quickly, then invite you to answer the same question.

I usually steer the conversation to an end with the question, “What can I do to help you?” It sounds sincere because I really mean it. Even if there’s nothing my company can do for her at the present time, I can like her company’s social media pages, subscribe to the newsletter, etc. If you take a genuine interest in people, your authenticity will shine. What cringeworthy lines have you overheard at networking events?

This article first appeared on FairyGodBoss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.

More From Ladders