Ready for some irony?
To really become good at conversing, you need to be an excellent listener.
If I had been asked, what makes someone a great conversationalist, that would not have been my answer. Perhaps someone who has brilliant responses? Nope.
I am realizing now, I can use some practice.
Just this past weekend, I had a thrilling conversation about conversations. I know that may not sound like the most exhilarating chat to have, but I am willing to talk about anything that doesn’t involve the words: election, coronavirus, and/or conspiracy theories.
In fact, the more we spoke about conversations, the more I was intrigued to learn more about them.
In a quest for more information, a short Google search introduced me to a woman by the name of Celeste Headlee. Celeste is an award-winning journalist, public speaker, musician, and author of, We Need to Talk. In both her Ted Talk and a conversation with Helio’s Editorial Director, Panio Gianopoulos, she made me laugh and left me feeling empowered to start having better conversations ASAP.
I know my faults (or so I think) when engaging in conversation. I interrupt, I say “interesting” far too often as well as the word “wait” as a horrible segue to ask my next question. Lastly and often accompanied by a tinge of anxiety, I am thinking ahead to what my next remark or inquiry will be. In other words, I am not as present as I should be.
Celeste to the rescue!
In 10 Ways To Have A Better Conversation, I learned incredible strategies to enhance my communication skills in just under twelve minutes.
Here are Celeste’s best tips on how to converse like a pro.
Your best tool: questions.
Not only does this tool allow you to learn something, but it also allows you to do less talking and more listening. It will take the pressure off of you and will focus on the person you’re speaking with.
*Pro Tip: Steer clear of yes/no questions and ask open-ended ones. It’ll make for both a better conversation and response.
No matter what, you will learn something.
Every human out there knows something that you don’t. Find out what it is and ask them questions about it.
“Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t.” – Bill Nye
Everyone’s experience is unique and their own.
If someone is confiding in the loss of a loved one, hold off on your story of loss. More than likely, all the person wants, is to be listened to. It’s what many of us want when venting or sharing grief.
Give yourself permission be the listener. You will have another opportunity to share your experiences.
Really listen and be present.
Be in the moment. Listen to the words that are coming out of their mouth and into your head.
Digest what it is they are telling you, offer a response, and keep the conversation flowing.
Go with the flow.
Let the conversation move organically. If in the middle of the person who is speaking, you have an epiphany, let it go. Similar to meditation, let thoughts come and go without letting them simmer. Interrupting or renavigating the conversation in order to get your thought in, will likely throw things off.
Work on being focused on what is being said, not what you want to say.
Don’t be a conversational narcissist.
In other words, don’t hijack the convo. Try at all costs to not turn the conversation around onto yourself or one-upping an experience.
It will deflate the conversation immediately.
Like anything in life, becoming more efficient in conversation takes practice. And the good news is, you can practice it with anyone, anywhere.
In conclusion, there is always something to talk about and learn.
The next time you find yourself stuck in a conversation with someone you think you have nothing in common with, consider seeing it as an opportunity to learn about a different human.
Ask all of the questions.