Having spent a few days at a conference recently, I had the opportunity to connect with many people of different ages, different backgrounds and different experiences. I observed how people interacted with each other and the types of conversations they had.
Naturally, most of the conversations were around the theme and information shared at the conference. The interesting thing was that I found it easier to have conversations with some people but with others, the conversations didn’t flow as freely or as naturally as I had expected it to.
I’ve come to the realisation that not all conversations will go as I expect them to. There are some things that are foundational for any conversation and here are five ways to ensure that you have great conversations that can result in new connections and friendships being created.
- Listen more than you speak. Being a good listener is imperative when having conversations. The funny thing is people like to talk about themselves and if you ask them questions about themselves, most people will happily answer them. And if you listen attentively, maintain eye contact, use good body language such as nodding in agreement or smiling, you will create a good connection with them. It has been said that we have been given two ears and a mouth for a reason and we need to use it in the same proportion — listen twice as much than we speak.
- Ask good quality questions. Building on the previous point, a key ingredient for any great conversation is the questions being asked. Asking open ended questions is useful. Questions asked can be focused on why the other person is at the same place as you. A good thing to remember is to start off with low risk questions such as where someone is from, what do they do for a living , etc. Then you can start asking deeper questions to form a closer connection, which can be what they are currently working towards or what are some of their goals, etc.
- Don’t try to impress others. I see it all the time where people try to impressive by saying how great they are and sharing all the things they have achieved. There is certainly a time and place for that however, people initially connect more with stories of struggle rather than stories of great success. In order to build trust with others, we have to show that we are authentic and genuine. By being willing to share what some of our current challenges are, we’ll automatically create a stronger bond with others. Unfortunately people end up trying to impress others because they start comparing themselves with others. It is very rare that whenever we compare ourselves with others that we will come out exactly the same. In our mind, we will either see ourselves as better off or worse off than the other person and this ends up creating separation between each other. So be genuine.
- Be confident in who you are. It is okay where we are in life. We all have different experiences and different journeys we’ve been on. And by sharing that journey, it can actually benefit the person you are speaking with. Confidence is something that is developed by surviving risks. During a conversation, you may not agree with something the other person is saying. That’s where it takes confidence to be able to say that you respect their point of view but do not necessarily agree with agree them. It is okay to stand for what you believe in and that can actually spark up a great conversation especially if the other person has a different perspective. However always remember, people are doing the best they can with the knowledge, skills and awareness they have.
- Give first then ask for something. All too often, people are out for themselves and are in a “get” frame of mind rather than a “give” frame of mind. By being the first to say, “How can I help you?” you’re actually evoking the law of reciprocity which states that whenever you put something good out, something good will come back. When you help people, their natural response is to want to help you as well. Therefore having a “give” mindset will cause the other person to express appreciation and remember the conversation.
Being able to have great conversations is an art and also a skill. It if is skill, then it can be developed with practice and patience. As we are interacting with people every day, it is highly advantageous to develop the ability to have engaging and meaningful conversations. These strategies will help you become a great conversationalist.
Question: What are some other ways to become a great conversationalist?
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