Powerful strategies for better conversations

One of the things I love most about my work is getting people together to learn about and enjoy good conversation. This, in turn, often leads to a number of benefits for those who participate in my sessions.  These benefits include:

  • Learning what “good” conversation really is and what it feels like
  • Meaningful connection or even a new friendship. (You can call this “networking” if you wish, but I think it’s much more powerful.)
  • A tidbit of critical information.
  • A potential solution to a vexing challenge.
  • A moment of clarity or inspiration.
  • An opportunity to be heard and feel a sense of community and belonging.

I see these benefits occur whether they take place at a conversation salon I host in my home (I’m doing one this evening) or during a presentation, breakout, or workshop I do for a client or an event.  The energy in the room immediately rises and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

Photo courtesy of Kawtar Cherkaoui and Unsplash

Today I thought I’d share a few “Good Conversation” ideas and best practices. I invite you to think about them and perhaps even choose one to try out today when you find yourself in the company of others.  See if these strategies help you enjoy your conversations more and achieve some of the many benefits that a gracious and meaningful exchange with a fellow human can offer.

  • Curiosity:  Move beyond yourself and ask interesting questions of others. (Perhaps warm up with a little small talk first.) Be open to a range of conversation topics.  Listen for what you can dive deeper into (e.g. “Oh, I love that you went to Italy recently. What was your favorite experience while you were there?”)
  • Be interested, but also interesting. Do, read, try, and experience a range of things so you have a number of topics to discuss beyond work, kids, and the weather. But always, always listen more than you speak.
  • Don’t try to one-up what the other person says.   Ugh. I did this recently, caught myself, and promptly apologized. When someone tells you about an experience or bit of good news, don’t retort with something you did that was better.  Practice “genshai” which (in Japanese) is the art of never making anyone else feel small.
  • Open-mindedness, acceptance, and respect:  Keep an open mind as you listen. Understand that people have their opinions just as you have yours. You don’t have to decide if something is good or bad, right or wrong, or even smart or silly. Resist the urge to judge, argue, or force your opinion or point of view on others. Healthy debate is okay, but very few people know how to do this kindly and graciously.  If you are feeling especially brave, you can say something such as, “I’m interested in hearing why you feel that way.” Then be ready to listen.
  • Be gracious and your best self: Be mindful of your body language, facial expressions, words, and tone of voice.  My mother’s best advice ever was, “It doesn’t cost a penny to be gracious.”
  • Sharing and vulnerability:  Share your stories, feelings, and experiences. Even mistakes and blunders. Be authentic and honest.  Just be sure you don’t wander into the TMI (Too Much Information) Zone.  Certain topics can be shocking, gross, or just inappropriate. Like the time the lady next to me on a Southwest Airlines flight rambled on about her cats and their litter boxes. Yuck.
  • Brevity and clarity:  Practice being clear, focused, and concise.  It can be so frustrating to listen to someone yammer, dart from topic to topic, stammer, and not get to the point. Plus, your brevity gives others the gift of time to share what they have to contribute.

Would love to hear your comments, ideas, and strategies. And if I can be of service to you, your organization, or your upcoming event — or if you are interested in attending one of my private events, please let me know!  Contact me at patti[at]intentionalnetworker[dot]com .

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