Simple Practical Ways to Improve Your Conversations

Jan 20, 2014 -

Be More Charismatic in Your Next Conversation 

In this day in age, most of us rely heavily on email, Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media to communicate. We now spend more of our time on our phone and computers than in front of people. After all, it is more efficient to shoot a quick email than engage someone in a lengthy conversation. However, humans are by nature social animals. Our lives depend on other humans and not only do others affect our happiness, but they also factor in to our career successes.

Most people are not great conversationalists. They have no idea what to say or how to contribute to a conversation. One of the biggest mistakes people do is start off a conversation by putting the onus on the other person. One way most people do this is by starting off a conversation with a question. Not only did they just throw the ball in the other person's court, but immediately the pressure is on the other person to carry the conversation. This makes the person starting the conversation look like a novice. What you want to do is to take the reigns.

Matthew Hussey of LOVE Life suggests that a great conversation should be like playing basketball. In basketball, when someone passes you the ball you might hold on to the ball and dribble it a couple times. Or you might take a few moments and then decide to shoot. When most people converse it is like a game of tennis. When the ball is in your court you hit it back immediately after one bounce. Sometimes you don't even let it bounce at all. See if you can decide which of the below two conversations looks most like a tennis match or a basketball game.

Her:    "How are you?".
You:   "Great, thanks how are you?"
Her:    "Did you get that meeting invite I sent to you?"
You:    "Yes, thanks."

Her:   "How are you?".
You:   "I'm doing well. Last night I went to a classical music concert at the Disney Concert Hall in LA." My wife and I had planned this about a month ago. Let me tell you, it was an incredible experience to sit in front of a live performer. It really takes you to a different place."
Her:    "Oh wow, who was the performer?"
You:   "Usually, my wife and I don't follow classical music, but we came across a very talented violinist. Her name is Hilary Hahn and the concert was conducted by a Russian named Andrey." I forget his last name, but I've grown to have a greater appreciation for classical music."
Her:    "You know I went to a concert once, I believe it was at the Hollywood Bowl. We went during   Christmas last year and at the end of the show there were fireworks. It really made the whole event very eventful."

So, the next time you are in a business meeting or on that first date, don't fall into the trap of asking "how are you". Instead prepare a great answer to that question and almost go on a rant.

Like most politicians, when they are asked a question they tend to go on rants. Often times they end up not even answering the question in the first place. By going on a little rant you are giving that other person something to latch on to and pivot from. For example, if someone asks you how you are. Instead of saying "Fine, thanks. How are you?". Start talking about that concert you went last weekend or those new shoes you bought the other day. Take a look at what is around you and talk about that picture they have hanging in their office. Alternatively, you can also give an opinion about that picture or if you know that person just climbed the tallest mountain in the world, tell them that you admire them. The reason being you can't imagine yourself doing that, so you envy them. By doing this you give them an anchor on something to talk about and you'll be seen as more charismatic, confident, and interesting.

Here are three additional tips for how to improve your interactions.
1) Smile even before approaching that person. People can't see what you are feeling they can only see what  you are expressing.

2) Listening is more than nodding your head. Throw in a couple subtle "mmmm", "ahhh", and as a result  you'll reassure that you understand where they are coming from.

3) Contribute to the conversation by giving your own opinion about the topic or tell a story of a similar situation. By showing the other person that you understand and can relate to their beliefs, you are validating what they are saying.

To sum it all up, begin a conversation with somewhat of a rant. Stay away from asking a question right off the bat. When conversing, focus on playing basketball and avoid turning it into a tennis match. Listen to what the other person is saying and communicate that you are understanding through nods and "mmm"s. Most importantly of all, contribute to the conversation and give your own thoughts and experiences.
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