This is the first instalment of a planned series designed to turn you into a conversational Jedi.
I want to make your next conversation the best you’ve ever had. If having better conversations is something you’re interested in, be sure to stick around till the end.
This is something I’ve spent a hell of a lot of time learning, because to be quite frank I used to be terrible. But the good news here is I know exactly what’s needed to go from conversational average joe to conversational pro.
This article will be but a mere introduction, a pilot post for better conversations.. Just a few simple tips you can implement right now without much thought.
Quick Note: Depending on your proficiency here, this may all sound quite basic. If that’s you, just learn what you can and accept that you’re ahead of some people. There will be some incredibly deep and complex articles coming soon for you to sink your teeth into.
Let’s get into the first tip:
1. Ask Better Questions
Imagine with me if you will, a typical interaction between the uninitiated conversation noob:
A: “How are you”
B: “Yea fine thanks, you”
A: “I’m good”
Now I know what you’re thinking. Cal, such skills are beyond me, how can I have such riveting conversations!??!
In all seriousness, though this type of shitty conversation is all too common. It’s a boring social script that rarely goes anywhere. So what’s the solution to boring conversations?
Well, it’s simple. Just change the wording of the questions. Ask questions that don’t come with a scripted response and actually make them think. This is a lot easier than it sounds, trust me. Simply replace a lot of the common questions people ask, with more open-ended slightly less used versions. Let’s go over some examples:
Instead of “How you doing?” try “How’s your day going so far?” or even “what have you been up to today” Anything to actually get them talking.
Instead of “How was your week?” go for “Did you get up to anything fun this weekend?”
Now bear with me!
I know those aren’t the most interesting questions in the world. They aren’t supposed to be, that stuff will come later in the series. For now we’re just going over some simple shifts you can apply right now. All we’re looking for here is some engagement.
These simple changes in wording will cause the other person to actually think of a response and engage with you. It makes them less reliant on social scripts and allows for the conversation to actually develop. Simple stuff, but it’ll work if you just give it a try.
Social Script: In this context, it is simply a way to conserve mental energy by using automatic responses to commonly asked questions that don’t require any thought. It’s just expected that the answer to “how are you” is always “fine thanks”.
2. Listen Intently
Listening is by far the most important part of the conversation. If you’re not listening, you might as well be talking to yourself.
If you learn to truly listen to what the other person is saying, you’ll never again have to wonder what to talk about next. Your conversations will naturally flow into a state of harmony, seamlessly transitioning from topic to topic. I have an entire article on listening. If you haven’t read it yet be sure to check it out now and come back here after.
Always be listening out for little conversational inconsistencies. These are Topics or statements brought up that don’t quite seem to fit in with what’s expected. Chances are, they’ve brought this up randomly because it’s something they want to talk about. I’ll go over an example that happened to me recently. And yes, we were talking about the weather in an article about good conversation. Oh the irony.
Her: “Jesus it’s so hot, feel like I’m gonna collapse”
(This is a British term for pretty much anytime it’s not raining, we get to use it like three times a year)
Me “Should definitely make a day of this and go out somewhere”
Her “You know it’s 34°C in Paris right now”
Now I had a choice to make. Either I sarcastically reply “great” to show my utter distaste for her uncorrelated remark, or cleverly take this hint and ask if she’d been on holiday there recently. I opted for the second and was met with a huge smile as she told me stories of her visit.
People leave clues as to what they want to talk about. To have better conversations, all you have to do is listen out for them.
3. Be More Concise
Nobody cares about the minor details. Unless they add value to your story or help make a point, don’t obsess on the minor things. Nothing is more annoying than listening to someone repeatedly stop the conversation to try and remember the exact time, date, weather and astrological alignment of when the bird shat on them. Unless the details matter, skip them. People don’t really care.
If you want to have better conversations, change your thinking from: What do I want to say, to What would they like to hear.
I used to be that person. The waffler who never got to the point. Even writing these articles I have to scrupulously read through and take out all the filler. What you see here is about 10% the length of the original.
This doesn’t mean you should talk in an awkward robotic manner. Just pay a little more attention to what you’re talking about and ask yourself if it’s something they actually want/need to hear.
As always we have our little section here for those that don’t have time but still want to have better conversations.
- Ask better questions. Replace “How are you” with “How’s your day going so far” or “What have you been up to today”
- Focus on listening more than you talk. Look out for the little conversational inconsistencies hinting in the direction your conversation partner wants to go.
- Be more concise, don’t focus on the little details of your stories unless it actually adds value. Think what do they want to hear, not what do I want to talk about
Learning to have better conversations is going to be one of the best decisions you ever make. This is only the begining, there’s a lot more to come and it only gets better from here. I’m glad you’re on board with me here.
I’ll see you in the next installment!