A number of years ago, the United Church of Christ started a campaign called “Still Speaking” and it was inspired by a quote by Gracie Allen, who said “Never place a period where God has placed a comma.” The concept here is that there’s a whole bunch more to be learned in this world, and those that say we’ve heard it all and the “truth has been told”, never to be challenge, are missing a lot. I’m not a UCC member, but I always respected that church and what they were trying to do to bring a little balance to the radical evangelicals who have been telling everyone who can hear that they have the answers and people should not trust their own experiences. <off soapbox>
This idea has really struck with me in a career development sense, especially as it relates to networking and building relationships. I like to tell my clients that they should try to have every conversation that they have with people end in a comma, not a period. Commas signify that there will be things still to come. Periods signify that things have ended. The goal for all professional (as well as personal!) relationships is that there is a future to be had, and you need to keep engaged in the conversation.
This is especially true when people are looking for a job. A common mistake that I see is that people use a lot of period-ending questions, like “Do you have a job opening?”. Most likely, the answer will be “No” and that ends the conversation. If instead, you asked a comma-ending question like “I’m looking to find out more about Company X. Where would you recommend that I look, or who could I talk to who can lead me to more information?” That type of question will keep the conversation going, as there are more options, and it can take you in many different directions.
I would say that this tactic could be more helpful in all of our conversations, as it gives some breathing room to the person being asked (no one likes to say No all the time!) and it forces the question asker to be open to information that might not be what was expected.
So, what is your best comma-ending question you’ve used?