Serious readers take extra care not to miss extracting information from books. They make highlights, take notes, and re-write key concepts in their own words, all in an attempt to retain as much information as possible.
What if we tried to extract interesting stories from people we met the same way we do with books we read?
Everybody wants to feel noticed, so notice them. Pay attention to the things they tell you. Skim through the small talk until you hit on something interesting they care about, then dig deeper. There are few things that produce better conversation than somebody speaking about their passions. Find out what somebody gets excited about and let them tell you why.
Once the conversation is flowing, pay attention. Silence your inner critic from worrying about what to say next by leveraging your curiosity. It's hard to be in your own head playing defense when you take responsibility for discovering the other person's personality.
Afterwards, note anything you discussed that has follow-up potential. If you talked about her boss secretly stealing her lunch from the office fridge, joke about it the next time you see each other. Follow-up on the book they were reading, the new job they landed, or the trip they had planned. Remembering these details makes them feel good and you look good.
Get curious about people by searching for their stories with conversation. Make them feel noticed by proving you were listening.