How many conversations have you had today? What about this week? You probably would say several. After all, most of us are around people all day, and we’re talking to some of these people. We interact with co-workers, classmates, friends, and family members. But are you actually having a conversation with them? I would venture to say you’re not having as much conversation as you think. Sure, we’re talking to others, but are we engaging them in meaningful dialogue? And be honest, how often would you prefer to send a We Chat or instant message to someone, as opposed to physically talking to them?
We live in a world more connected than ever, and yet having We Chat contacts or Facebook friends does not translate into lives full of rich conversation. In fact, it may very well be that being so connected has fooled us into thinking we have deep relationships, when in fact we may struggle to carry on a basic conversation. Regardless of the kind of work you do or hope to do, the art of conversation is a skill we all need, but may struggle to grasp. Here are a few things to keep in mind to hone your conversational skills.
- Be an Initiator: We are generally passive and prefer to follow someone else’s lead, rather than be an initiator. And those of us that are introverts most certainly don’t want to be the ones to start a conversation. But what’s the worst that can happen? You try to start a conversation and the other party isn’t interested? That’s not so bad. Don’t be afraid to initiate conversation. A simple greeting and a friendly smile will often break barriers between people.
- Put Away Technology: Don’t just message or We Chat someone. Arrange a time to get coffee or something to eat. Spend less time on your phone and more time face-to-face. And when you are with someone, turn your notifications off or turn your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode. Be present and engaged in your conversations.
- Pay Attention: We’ve talked in previous blogs about how to be a good listener, and I could detail other ways to have a conversation, such as looking people in the eye. But if you are genuinely interested in the other party and are actively paying attention, then looking them in the eye, listening, etc. will be natural. Show a genuine curiosity in what others are saying.
- Ask Lots of Questions: An easy way to show interest is to ask questions. Conversations stall when nobody is asking questions. You will find that conversation becomes easier and more natural when you’re asking questions because it usually leads to more questions and the next thing you know you’ve had meaningful interaction and dialogue. Plus, you’re learning too!
- Don’t Do All the Talking: Nobody likes the guy that talks about himself all the time. But sometimes I know I’ve been that guy. Yes, if the other party is quiet or not yet ready to jump into meaningful conversation, you’ll need to be an initiator and carry the load for a bit on doing most of the talking. But if you’re asking questions and showing interest in others, then be content to listen and learn. Don’t make it all about you!
I’m afraid the art of conversation may be in decline. We have grown so accustomed to staring at our devices and communicating via these devices that we’ve forgotten how to talk to each other. Take some time to sharpen those conversational skills and you may stand out from others all that much more. And you’ll get the blessing of enjoying meaningful relationships along the way!