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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 January 21, 2020

How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them

How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them

If I was a super hero I’d want my super power to be the ability to motivate everyone around me. Think of how many problems you could solve just by being able to motivate people towards their goals. You wouldn’t be frustrated by lazy co-workers. You wouldn’t be mad at your partner for wasting the weekend in front of the TV. Also, the more people around you are motivated toward their dreams, the more you can capitalize off their successes.

Being able to motivate people is key to your success at work, at home, and in the future because no one can achieve anything alone. We all need the help of others.

So, how to motivate people? Here are 7 ways to motivate others even you can do.

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1. Listen

Most people start out trying to motivate someone by giving them a lengthy speech, but this rarely works because motivation has to start inside others. The best way to motivate others is to start by listening to what they want to do. Find out what the person’s goals and dreams are. If it’s something you want to encourage, then continue through these steps.

2. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are the best way to figure out what someone’s dreams are. If you can’t think of anything to ask, start with, “What have you always wanted to do?”

“Why do you want to do that?”

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“What makes you so excited about it?”

“How long has that been your dream?”

You need this information the help you with the following steps.

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3. Encourage

This is the most important step, because starting a dream is scary. People are so scared they will fail or look stupid, many never try to reach their goals, so this is where you come in. You must encourage them. Say things like, “I think you will be great at that.” Better yet, say, “I think your skills in X will help you succeed.” For example if you have a friend who wants to own a pet store, say, “You are so great with animals, I think you will be excellent at running a pet store.”

4. Ask About What the First Step Will Be

After you’ve encouraged them, find how they will start. If they don’t know, you can make suggestions, but it’s better to let the person figure out the first step themselves so they can be committed to the process.

5. Dream

This is the most fun step, because you can dream about success. Say things like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if your business took off, and you didn’t have to work at that job you hate?” By allowing others to dream, you solidify the motivation in place and connect their dreams to a future reality.

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6. Ask How You Can Help

Most of the time, others won’t need anything from you, but it’s always good to offer. Just letting the person know you’re there will help motivate them to start. And, who knows, maybe your skills can help.

7. Follow Up

Periodically, over the course of the next year, ask them how their goal is going. This way you can find out what progress has been made. You may need to do the seven steps again, or they may need motivation in another area of their life.

Final Thoughts

By following these seven steps, you’ll be able to encourage the people around you to achieve their dreams and goals. In return, you’ll be more passionate about getting to your goals, you’ll be surrounded by successful people, and others will want to help you reach your dreams …

Oh, and you’ll become a motivational super hero. Time to get a cape!

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Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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