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How to Have More Entertaining Conversations

How to Have More Entertaining Conversations

What if I told you that some of the best conversation exchanges are about things that never occurred and never will?

Say hello to the hypothetical statement – or hypotheticals as I affectionately refer to them. Probably the most entertaining type of statement in the conversation universe. A single hypothetical can launch a conversation into a world of fictional fun.

I was sitting in a coffee shop writing and someone came over and asked if the comfy chair next to me was available. I didn’t feel like talking because I was engrossed in my writing, but after I told him it was free, he sat down, got comfortable, and said, “If I start snoring loudly, just kick me.”

We both laughed. I responded, “I’ve got some ice left in my cup I could pour on you if that would work better.” He laughed again, and I went about my work. Either of us could have continued a conversation very naturally from there if we wanted, all about an imaginary event — falling asleep and snoring in a chair! There was nothing glamorous about the event either – but simply discussing the hypothetical possibility, within the context of a coffee shop – was very funny.

Hypothetical statements don’t require the imagination of an artist or the wit of a playwright. Many are quite simple and quick. Check out the following example:

“I’m going for a run, although I’ll probably faint in this heat.”

You could have just told your wife, “I’m going for a run,” but that wouldn’t be entertaining, would it? Adding some hypothetical scenario takes it to a whole new level. You could have added any number of hypotheticals about possibly being bitten by the neighbor’s vicious dog, chased by cops, etc.

Look at the World Without Hypothetical Statements

To quickly illustrate the power and range of hypotheticals, let’s look at some real examples WITHOUT and WITH a hypothetical component.

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Obviously, you weren’t privy to the actual conversation, but my hope is you can imagine how B-O-R-I-N-G some of these statements are without hypotheticals and how they completely transform the instant the hypothetical is added:

Without Hypothetical: Yeah, I was going to call you this morning to see if you were coming in.

With Hypothetical:Yeah, I was going to call you this morning to see if you were coming in. I wanted to make sure you weren’t stuck in a ditch or something.

Without Hypothetical:

JACK: I’m so glad they finally built the café down here.

JILL: Yeah, before this I was eating fast food every day.

With Hypothetical:

JACK: I’m so glad they finally built the café down here.

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JILL: Yeah, before this I was eating fast food every day. I must have gained like twenty pounds!

Without Hypothetical: I have to go give that presentation now.

With Hypothetical:I have to go give that presentation now. Anyone want to come see me embarrass myself?

The Hypothetical and the Exception

Hypotheticals often come in the form of an exception. Check out this example:

Your friend mentions the topic of making beer.

YOU: I’ve always wanted to have a home brewery in my basement. That would so cool! Except I’d probably end up throwing most of it out!

FRIEND: Maybe you should have a bakery instead. I think you would like making sweets even more than beer. Except you would probably end up eating everything before you had a chance to sell it!

What Might be a Possible Explanation?

The hypothetical can take the form of a playful explanation for why some event or behavior occurred.

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For example, you are leaving a neighborhood party when someone comments about your five-year-old.

FRIEND: Your son has been so good this whole time.

YOU: Thanks. It worked out well.

The conversation could end there. Or you could add a playful reason as to why your son behaved so well.

YOU: Thanks! We got lucky. Someone probably snuck him a few beers from the fridge.

Check out another example:

Your friends are talking about hair loss.

YOU: Yeah, it sucks, I’m sure I’ll be bald in about two years.

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FRIEND: Really, you look like you still have all your hair.

YOU: Yeah, well, not really.

Or you could also provide a hypothetical reason.

YOU: That’s because I’m wearing a toupee – a really good one. I glued it down.

The Almost Realm

Many great hypothetical statements exist in the realm of the “Almost” did/said/happened. This is often more interesting than the literal truth. It’s a very important technique in telling stories as well.

For a simple, but effective example, imagine someone asking: “How’d the event go?”

You reply “It was fun…the tent almost collapsed…but overall, it was a good time.” Or “It was fun…nothing burned down, so that was good.”

This gives the other person something else to connect to. “Well, I’m glad nothing burned down! That wouldn’t be good.”

Hypotheticals require a little imagination and a playfulness, which isn’t easy to replicate when you’re by yourself.  Regardless, it’s a habit that doesn’t come easily unless you make some effort. See if you can finish the following statements with a hypothetical statement:

  1. My team is playing tonight, if they ______, I’ll ________.
  2. I can’t stand mushrooms…if _________.
  3. Your beard is getting really long, you could ________.

A lot of times, just forcing yourself to add a “if…  it could…. it should… it would have… it might… I’ll probably… ” can help trigger some imaginative, entertaining statements!

More by this author

Gregory Peart

Gregory is the author of The Conversation Code: How to Upgrade Your Social Skills and Your Life. He regularly teaches adult social skills classes.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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