You know, sometimes, the world around me gives me the creeps. Each day I step out to see hundreds of people lost in digital worlds, in little man-made bubbles, completely and utterly ambivalent to the humanity that’s around them. Sometimes it feels like we humans are slowly but surely moving away from what makes us human; our connections to each other.
Which brings me to today’s topic.
Over the years I’ve worked with dozens of men and women looking to enrich their love lives, and one of the most common problems that I come across with them is that they just don’t seem to be able to relate to each other in conversation. It’s almost like they’re all separated by invisible walls of self-doubt, ego and confusion. So in today’s article I want to share some thoughts, insights and musings on what I think helps make a great conversationalist.
Remember that it’s a two-way street
A great conversation is like a game of poker, and all great conversationalists understand this. You see, in a game of poker if a player doesn’t have a lot of money committed to a pot they’re more likely to feel comfortable folding out of a hand. But the more money they have invested in a hand the harder it will be for them to walk away from it.
Conversations are sort of the same; and just like a poker player would invest chips or money in a pot, your goal is to get your conversational partner to invest an equal amount of energy, enthusiasm and creativity as you to the conversation. Which brings me to my next point…
Talk about things the other person is good at talking about
Sometimes it’s easy, and even tempting, to veer towards conversational topics that you’re knowledgeable about. But the problem is that if your conversational partner has no idea about what you’re talking about and cannot relate to it, the conversation is going to turn out very one-sided and boring, very soon.
So instead of letting your ego guide the direction of your conversation, instead focus on what your conversational partner is good at or passionate about. And here’s the cool thing; it doesn’t matter if you have a hard time relating to what they like talking about. Sometimes it’s OK to admit that you don’t know how to relate something and encourage your partner to express a bit more.
Now I know that this sounds like one of the most clichéd pieces of conversational advice, but bear with me for a moment. Something I hear from a lot of people is how they have no idea what they should talk about when trying to have a conversation with a stranger, but the truth of the matter is that every little thing that someone says is loaded with little hooks that you can latch onto, if you really care to listen.
For example, if someone tells you that they would like to have more time to travel, there are so many directions that you can direct the conversation based on this tiny statement. You could ask them what they love so much about traveling or why they feel held back from their travel goals or what the most memorable place they’ve travelled to was.
The thing about great conversationalists is that they understand that a lot of human interaction is actually not verbal. In fact, some scientists believe that only about 7% of all human communication is verbal. So the next time that you’re sharing a conversation with someone, make an effort to notice what their non-verbal cues are telling you. For instance you could notice how an actor gets really animated with their gestures when they talk about their work or about how an artist’s eyes always widen up when they talk about a piece they love. Show people that you notice these subtleties and they’ll want to express more of themselves to you.
Show genuine interest
As far as great conversations go, showing genuine interest in what another person has to say is a truly powerful thing. You see, people don’t want to be complimented on what’s generic about them. Yeah, they might be wearing a cool shirt or have a nice haircut, but they don’t want to hear more about how cool it is.
They want to be noticed and appreciated for the little things that make them unique. And your job as a great conversationalist is to notice these things in conversation and appreciate them. Something as simple as telling a person that you love the way they explain even the most mundane things like morning coffee with so much passion can have a powerful affect.
Another mistake that a lot of people make is that they get too hung up on the technicalities of what another person is communicating. Humans, however, respond more powerfully to emotions and feelings; which is why most people buy Apple products, listen to John Mayer and would rather watch a movie about World War II than read an actual paper on it. So the next time a person tells you that they just visited Hawaii, instead of asking them where they stayed and how much their air ticket cost them, talk about how it would make you “feel” to go somewhere that you’ve always wanted to visit.
At the end of the day, great conversation is an art, and like any other form of art it takes practice to master. So I hope that this sets you on the right track towards improving your conversational skills and connections with the people you will meet from this day forward.