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How to Have Better Conversations

We’ve heard enough about the weather already. Clouds can only be so exciting and blue sky is, well, always blue. It’s time to charter into new and unknown topics – into conversations that are memorable, intellectually stimulating, and unforgettable. So how exactly do you walk away from an interaction feeling like you’re the Oprah of […]

We’ve heard enough about the weather already. Clouds can only be so exciting and blue sky is, well, always blue. It’s time to charter into new and unknown topics – into conversations that are memorable, intellectually stimulating, and unforgettable. So how exactly do you walk away from an interaction feeling like you’re the Oprah of conversation? There are a few unspoken rules that need to be in place for you to begin.

1. A little give, a little take

Conversations are two-way, like a see saw. They are about asking questions and about sharing information – back and forth. They are an opportunity for someone to get to know you and you to know them so don’t just answer the question – elaborate a little then ask a question back. After a good conversation you should know something about the person and they should know something about you. If you don’t, you’ve either been interrogating the person (too may questions) or you’ve been talking all about yourself (which fails to impress).

2. Love the small talk

Drop the old “I hate small talk” adage. No you don’t. I mean, do you really want to jump into a deeply personal discussion with a complete stranger? Bring up your personal philosophies, your religio-politico thoughts, your marriage troubles? Didn’t think so. Small talk is an essential part of a conversation, it’s how you break the ice. It’s the diving board to jump off and jump in. It helps you find common ground and gives you clues and cues about the person you’re speaking to. Think current events, sports finals, the US Election (okay, that one might be a little dangerous) and what you do for work.

3. Find commonalities

As soon as you find SOME commonality —you’re both obsessed with Pokemon Go, you’re avid readers of Game of Thrones, you work in the same industry—you instantly form some kind of a deeper connection beyond having just met. Research tells us that we like people who are like us, so the key to great conversation is to find what you have in common. Once you establish commonalities, it sets the stage for great conversation and connection and moves you away from small talk.

4. Stay in the know

In order to upgrade from small talk to beefier conversations, you have to be in the know. Ensure you’re reading books, paying attention to thought leaders and conferences, consuming local and global news, knowing your geography, attending movies/concerts, and staying current on social media. You’re bound to find something to talk about (or never stop talking about) if you stay active on those fronts. (And let’s be real, there’s nothing more conversation-killing than when someone brings up, say, a current event that you know absolutely nothing about. #Embarrassing for everyone involved.)

5. Ask great questions

People like to talk about themselves and what they know, so go in curious and ask great questions. What do you love most about your job? What was your path to <>? What was the best piece of advice you ever got? If you’re looking for great icebreakers, we have a practically unlimited list of the BEST questions you could possibly ask someone. We’re not kidding, these work every time.

Like public speaking, the only way to get comfortable with conversations is to have more conversations. As humans we have a basic need to connect. Conversation makes those connections.

Catherine Ducharme
January 29, 2017
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