All great conversations share common elements. Familiarize yourself with each of the 12 Golden Rules, and you will improve your interpersonal communication skills immediately.
1. Great Descriptions
Do you want to sound more interesting? Then start with your descriptions. The best communicators use more creative names for things – instead of using obvious descriptive names, such as, “here’s some more beer…” try, “here’s some more poison…” or “here’s some more liquid courage…” or reference the commercial, “this Bud’s for you…” You get the idea? Don’t default to the trite word just because you’re used to always saying it that way.
Advertisers and good writers know that using visual imagery and emotion is the fastest way to your heart (and wallet). People prefer visual imagery and emotionally packed words. Instead of saying “it was cold” you could say that you “couldn’t even feel your fingers.”
Instead of: “That’s a huge burger!”
Paint a picture: “That thing is a heart attack on a plate!”
Instead of: “I’m so upset, I’m gonna need to calm down.”
Paint a picture: “I’m so upset, I’m gonna need to go buy a decaf iced coffee…”
2. Great Contrasts and Comparisons
What if I asked you how your trip to Disney World was? You could say something boring like, “It was fun…” Or you could include a quick contrast to make your phrase twice as interesting, “It was fun…no one fell off a roller coaster or anything…so it was fun…”
You can always state what something is not like. “I’m very upset, not angry upset, but nervous upset.” Or “That’s not trickle-down economics, that’s more like mist down economics…” People enjoy hearing contrasts. Stating an exception helps clarify, add contrast, and dimension.
Many radio personalities use this technique to add balance and substance to their opinions (plus it helps them fill air time). Instead of saying, “I think he’s an excellent quarterback…” they may say something like, “I think he’s an excellent quarterback…now I’m not saying he’s Joe Montana…but he’s really good…”
When you use comparisons, don’t be afraid to expand and explain them. “She’s gorgeous, she’s at the highest level of gorgeous…higher than Kim Kardashian gorgeous… and it doesn’t get much higher than that…”
3. Great Non-Verbal Communication
Most experts agree – non-verbal communication is often more important than the words you speak. Psychologists have consistently discovered that people are the most drawn to those who have energy in their voice and mannerisms.
Take your listener on a roller coaster ride. This is the greatest metaphor for figuring out how to use energy more effectively. You cannot simply inject energy into every word you speak and hope that works. The trick is to vary your energy and inflection. Stay away from a flat, monotone voice. When you speak, vary the energy you put into each word or phrase. Try to emphasize the important words. Vary your volume; speak slightly louder for important phrases. Treat your voice like a roller coaster – are you taking the audience on a fun ride or a boring ride? Are there some dips and lulls?
Control your speed. Great conversationalists can change their speed at will. This works because when your speed never changes, your vocal patterns are predictable. And predictable = boring. Is it important? Then try saying it more slowly. Poor conversationalists tend to talk at the same rate and often too quickly. Speak in chunks, and don’t be afraid of a pause.
Unconscious habits. Can any of the following nicknames describe you? Anxious Eyes? Statue Face? Mumble Mouth? Lethargic Larry? You may not even be aware of a bad habit; try to be more conscious of what your body does during an interaction. Ask a close friend for objective feedback.
Gesture more. People enjoy movement, and gesturing is an easy and free way to add this entertaining element to your conversations.
4. Great Outlook
Great conversationalists are always humble and have a positive outlook. They may qualify phrases with modest setups like, “I don’t know a lot, but I do know that she…”
When they respond to someone, they look for the positive parts. Rather than saying, “That’s stupid” they say, “Well at least you didn’t have to ____ .”
5. Great Human Traits
It seems very obvious, but expressing human emotion is key to great conversation. Did they get a raise? Act thrilled and happy for them! Is this the first time seeing them in a few weeks? Act excited to see them! Are you eating a delicious piece of chocolate German cake – then say so! Describe how wonderful it is and how it makes you feel. Poor conversationalists often have difficulty expressing their emotions and feelings. If someone buys you a gift, just saying, “thank you” is not enough. Express your appreciation non-verbally as well. Conversations without the human elements can wither and die.
6. Great Intersecting Interests
Everyone has a bucket of interests that they love to discuss. You may love talking about butterfly mating habits and the other person may love discussing fashion trends of 17th European Royalty. You may assume that if you just talk about the other person and their interests all day, the conversation will go along swimmingly. Not so. Good conversation is never one-sided. Even the most selfish people want to hear about your opinions and your thoughts and your interests sometimes. Great conversationalists are constantly searching for where their interests and their conversational partner’s interests intersect. Think Venn diagram. When you find these intersections of interests, keep the conversation honed in around those topics.
What if they like to ski but you never have? At the very least, discuss a topic that is similar to the topic they enjoy. You could probably regale them with the story about how you went mountain climbing and they would still be interested.
To be continued in Part 2…