Conversations used to be the glue in having meaningful relationships, and social as well as professional interactions. A good heart-to-heart or a one-on-one worked wonders daily. It kept serious discussions going; it held interest in a relaxing evening with friends; it entertained, added value, got one’s points across, inspired, built rapport. A good conversationalist was someone everybody wanted to either be like or be with.
Holding attention through conversation was an art.
Today in our modern society, with advancements in technology, the conversation is starting to be a dying art. Gadgets and in-hand media are grabbing people’s attention first, and distracting them quickly from anybody talking.
That is bound to happen. These industries have spent millions of dollars understanding the way we absorb content. Using these insights they are developing eye-catching phrases, images and content to captivate us right from the beginning. If you look at the way movies tell their story, the way intriguing ads are shown for seconds in between the videos we are already watching, the pithy text used in marketing campaigns, the challenges thrown at you while gaming, you will see it is all a part of a great design – to release the right amount of dopamine in us to get us instantly hooked.
So, on one hand, we can complain about the conversation becoming a dying art, or we can learn from the very learnings these industries have invested in getting. And use them to begin captivating audiences through conversation, and bring back real-world human social interaction.
We can study the way actors communicate, the pauses they use mid-sentence, their choice of words, the words they emphasize on, how they tell their stories, their expressions and so on. We can understand what is making people want to keep watching and listening to them. We can teach ourselves these skills through observation, or through tons of other available resources. There are books out there that teach us the art of conversation too, like Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. Meanwhile here are a few things to think about, and a few tips to start with.
To be a conversationalist, you must know when to ask questions and when not; the difference between enquiring and prying; the definition of neutral safe questions (which you can store away at the back of your mind as canned questions to ask when you don’t know how to start); when to acknowledge and when to deny; when to reinforce or counter-argue.
But to be a good conversationalist, you must be aware of all of the above as well as have a set of skills. Like that of good storytelling; the ability to sense the audience’s moods; to tell whether they are connecting with and understanding what you are saying; to judge their level of interest and knowledge on the subject; to judge the attention they are giving you; to know when it’s not working and when to turn to your canned stories and questions.
Here are some pointers to hone these skills.
Be positive. Learn to reframe your sentences. You should be able to flip every negative scenario into a positive one. If you can’t, don’t talk about it. No one will want to listen to you complaining about your job for long. Instead, start a discussion about how workplaces can be improved through simple steps, and people will get involved.
Bring energy and enthusiasm into all your conversations. Everyone is attracted to positive energy. But positivity cannot be faked successfully. People catch on. So, talk about things you genuinely feel positive about. Laugh. Laughter is infectious and makes people feel safe and relax.
Be a good listener. Use just 20% of the time to guide the conversation. Let others use the rest of the 80% to talk. NEVER interrupt. People love to talk about themselves. It’s normal. Give them the space to do that. Hold back your opinions unless asked.
Be the social glue that holds the group together. Be the one with the plan chalked out. Be the one to engage proactively. Be the life of the party.
When you practice all this, you will know you are getting good at it when people start putting their mobile phones down to listen to you.
It’s difficult, but it’s possible. And if you need help, just reach out.
1 thought on “Giving life to your conversations with Women”
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