By Taylor Deer
Everyone remembers conversations they’ve had where time seemed to stand still. Where their attention is laser-focused on the other person. Even though we may have had a million things on our mind, we are solely focused on the present moment and what’s happening in the conversation. The types of conversations where at the end, one person looks at their watch and goes, “Woah! How is it midnight already?!”
Great conversations have this ability to warp time, capture our attention, and be completely engrossed in the present moment. How many other things within our lives can have that effect on us? Conversations are one of the most amazing things we forget about on a daily basis. They help us learn, and they stimulate us not only mentally, but physically as well. One of my favorite authors Alex Pentland Ph.D. reports in his book Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World, that “water cooler chatter” boosts productivity within organizations and businesses.
Most of us go through the motions more often than not within conversations. Either we think diving into an engaging conversation will take too much energy, or we just think that its rude to jump into a deep conversations too quickly with someone. So most of the time, we stick to topics that are safe to enter and safe to exit at anytime. Those topics are limited to things that are familiar to most people and don’t take much brainpower to generate a response. Therefore we can have these conversations on autopilot and gently exit anytime we need to. These conversations are totally fine for idle conversation within your life when you need to be more polite and mindful of someone else’s time.
Its also important to realize situations when we need to step up and engage someone in a great conversation that helps us begin to build a deeper relationship with them (meeting your partner’s family members or friends for the first time, meeting a client/co-worker, first dates, interviews, recruiting new members etc…). Unfortunately, when we only practice the “easy in easy out” conversations, switching gears to start digging into a deeper conversation can feel unnatural and awkward because we forgot the skills we need to do so. “Easy in, easy out” conversations aren’t socially excellent.
There is no science to having great relationship-building conversations, but here are a few tips that can help your conversations feel a bit more magical:
1) Ask thought provoking questions
- Ask questions that force people to use their brains (What did you think of Drake’s new album? Vs. Did you like Drakes new album?)
- Pick topics that they have opinions on, hear them out regardless whether you agree or not (Do you think McGregor deserved to be taken off the 200 card?)
2) Take a step into their mind.
- Be curious about their “why” (Why did you do that? Do you think that made you happier? How come you care so much about ice cream?)
- Get the full picture (Why didn’t you stay with that company? What other majors were you looking into? Did you ever have any second doubts?)
3) Watch for cues
- If they look like their are uncomfortable with a question, apologize, back peddle, and switch to something else (Oh sorry! I didn’t mean to dig too deep, I’m just super curious. Let’s talk about something else…)
- If you ask a question and its easy for them to answer, stay on that subject (What! No way, what happened? If you liked Birdman, did you see his new movie The Revenant?)
4) Have fun
- People love to talk to people who add energy to a conversation
- The more interested you are, the better the conversation becomes because you are having fun. The more fun you are having, the more they feel comfortable talking to you because you actually like what they have to say. Its extremely easy for someone to tell if you are faking acting interested.