You’d be surprised by the number of people that don’t know how to have a proper, interesting conversation. I’ve adapted the concepts that I’m preaching from one of my favorite books, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. If you haven’t read the book I couldn’t recommend it enough to give it a read. I’ll give you some of the cliff notes here along with some new content that I tweaked through my own experiences.
The best conversations are the ones that you walk away from saying “wow” to yourself. The art of having a conversation is becoming rarer with every generation. Face to face interactions are limited due to technology and it’s made a lot of teens and young adults awkward to talk to. Whether it’s with girls, friends, or colleagues, young adults are generally not great at having an interesting conversation. However, you should be looking at this as an opportunity to break away from the norm and practice the skills now. At some point, everyone will need to learn the art of having a conversation because of work or other responsibilities that force you to talk to other people. But learning these tricks sooner rather than later could help you win over friends, girls, co-workers, and future bosses. The best part is that these tricks can be implemented immediately with just a little focus. At first, practice as often as you can. It’s very easy to implement these tricks to literally any interaction you have. Over time, you’ll be able to turn it on and off whenever you want. Here are the hacks that will make your conversations more interesting and generally better.
- LEARN FROM EVERY INTERACTION – Treat every interaction like you have something to learn from it. And I mean every interaction. This is big for several reasons. For one, the person you’re talking to will recognize that you are engaged, and it will make him or her more engaged themselves, causing them to step their game up too and be more interesting to try and impress you. More importantly, there is something to learn from every interaction. You may not realize it until you think about it. Even if someone is yelling and screaming and cursing you out, there is something to learn. Even if that person is dead wrong, there is something to learn. In this particular case, the learning lesson is patience. The person that is going off on you may be having a bad day and he or she could just be taking it out on you. If that’s the case, let them do it. Learn patience. If you actually did something wrong that justifies the yelling and screaming, then it should be easy to pick up what on the learning lesson. But still focus on being patient. I’m not saying be a push-over, but there is no need to lash back out. Try to understand where they are coming from instead of assuming you know. So, all in all, there is something to learn from every interaction. Once you pick it out, focus on that.
- PATIENCE – I know I mentioned patience above, but this is important enough where it needs its own line. DO NOT INTERUPT. When you’re having a conversation and you try to finish the person’s sentence, or constantly saying “yea” or “right”, this gives the talker the impression that you’re trying to hurry him or her up. Or you may have a question that you’re dying to ask and feel it’s necessary to interrupt the talker’s train of thought to ask it. DON’T DO THAT. Let the talker finish. I found out in a lot of cases, the talker will get to that point even without you asking the question. Just be patient and listen. A conversation is a back and forth. It’s like a dance in a sense. Except with a conversation, you and the person you’re talking to take turns leading. One person goes, then the other person goes. It starts to fall apart when two people try to do the same thing at once. When two people try to lead at the same time, that’s when ego gets involved because you’re trying to top the talker with a thought of your own. Let it go. Let’s see where the conversation goes. Be patient and listen. If you have questions or thoughts of your own, wait until the talker finishes their line of thought, then step in when it’s your turn. The more someone talks about themselves, the more you may feel like you want to talk about yourself. Usually these types of people have big egos and want everyone to know about them. This is where you can learn a lot about patience. Let them do it. It’s not about you. It’s about the conversation. People like this suck to talk to, so if you’re really sick of them, just don’t start another conversation with them. Let them talk someone else’s ear off about themselves.
- GO WITH THE FLOW – This one is more of a reminder than an actual tip, since most of us know that a good conversation should flow. However, some people still find it difficult to put this into action or what this really means. This goes back to my last point of being patient. It’s important to not interrupt the talker and instead, letting him or her finish their train of thought. A conversation should naturally move in a direction. When you interrupt with “Yea”, “ok”, finishing a sentence, or asking a question abruptly, you ruin the flow and the conversation becomes hurky-gerky. The talker will feel pressured to speed up and it won’t be comfortable when this happens. When it is time for your turn, focus on what has just been said. Do not bring something up from a few minutes ago when you’re already on to something new. This is a good problem to have because it means the conversation is moving along. If you can, ask about something that the talker said in his or her last sentence or two. A lot of times if you’re wondering about something the talker said a few minutes back, it will eventually come up again and you can focus more on it when it does. Ask open ended questions. Start your questions with “Who”, “What”, “Where”, “When”, “How”, or “Why”. If you look at each interaction as if you’re the driver, you can facilitate where the conversation goes naturally. Notice how I said “facilitate” and not “manipulate”. You are there to guide where the conversation goes naturally, not to force a conversation down a certain path.
- DON’T USE ‘I’ – This is huge!!! No one likes talking to someone who can’t stop talking about themselves. As I referenced earlier, sometimes people try to top each other with experiences of their own. You may say “I did this…” or “I like this…” for example. Don’t do this! You can say a lot about who you are just by asking a question. Avoiding the usage of the word ‘I’ will also help you focus on asking questions about your partner rather than talking about yourself. There’s a phrase that I love and it goes, “A wise man once said nothing.” Don’t take this one too literal, but there is a lot of truth in this. My interpretation of this would be a wise man would rather listen and learn from others rather than talk about himself. Avoiding ‘I’ will help you keep the conversation on your partner and prevent egos from trying to top each other. And if you’re asking yourself, “But when am I supposed to have some input here?”, here is the answer. The answer is when your partner asks you. Most of the time in my experiences, when you ask a lot of questions, first your partner will get encouraged to keep up the conversation and then secondly, recognize that the conversation is focused on him or her and then he or she will return the favor after they made their point. So be patient yet again. They will ask about you if they are interested in your thoughts and if they don’t, then you know they aren’t interested in you so don’t force it. I look at it this way, if you aren’t interested in me and just talking about yourself, then chances are I won’t want to talk with you next time.
- SAY IT AS A QUESTION – As I referenced earlier, you can say a lot about yourself by reframing the point you want to make as a question. For example, if your partner is talking about what types of alcohol her prefers and you’d like to voice your opinion on how much you like tequila, do not just come out and say, “I like tequila”. That’s boring. Instead, ask “What are your thoughts on tequila?”. By doing this you do a number of things: 1) You are not being selfish. You are being interesting by asking him about his level of interest in tequila. You’ll also get a better response from him because he’ll be excited to share his thoughts on the subject, providing more life to the conversation. 2) You are not forcing the conversation down a certain path, you are simply guiding it. You are already on the topic of alcohol drinks so it’s relevant. 3) You’ll show him you are interested in his thoughts. 4) You’ll learn more about him. You already know about yourself, so try to limit how much you talk about yourself unless he asks of course. 5) Chances are he’ll wonder why you brought up something specific like tequila and reciprocate the question right back to you, providing more flow and back and forth to the conversation. When this happens, go ahead and give him your thoughts. He asked for it. So give it to him. But always follow up with a question or his opinion on what you just brought up. If you really want to state your point, then provide some background information you have on the subject or an experience you had that is relevant to what you two are talking about, then follow it up with a question or ask about his opinion on what you just shared. But always end your turn on a question.
- BE INTERESTING – I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. The best way to be interesting is to ask interesting questions. The better the question is, the better the answer will be.
- LISTEN – Listen, listen, listen! When you’re having a conversation, block everything else out. Be present in the moment and listen to what your partner is saying. Your partner will pick up on this and it will make them feel good about themselves because they will feel like they are being heard. And they are! People like feeling good so if you can provide an environment in which they are excited to be in and talk to you, they will be more attracted to you and others will notice this and be attracted to you also.
When I tried these hacks out, I saw immediate results. People were more excited to talk to me and I was attracting more people to me since they saw how great of a conversation I was having. Some people are better to talk to than others. Don’t get discouraged if one conversation goes poorly. Remember, if nothing else, learn how to be more patient! There is something to learn in every interaction. Find it and you’ll be great. Learn how to utilize these tricks and how to tweak each one and you will become a great conversationalist! Drop a comment if you have any other tips or advice. Hope this helps.