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If You Know These 6 Tricks, Everyone Likes Communicating With You

If You Know These 6 Tricks, Everyone Likes Communicating With You

How many times have you seen this scenario? You’re at a social gathering–say an office party–where people are just barely acquainted with each other. The conversations are a bit strained and are a commingling of “shop” talk, mindless chit-chat and awkward pauses. Your eyes scan the room, and you notice that Jeff from marketing keeps drawing small crowds of people to him. The people are all smiling and engaged, and no one leaves the group.

What’s Jeff’s secret? How does he do it? He’s not telling jokes or performing magic tricks; in fact, he really isn’t saying a whole lot, yet he’s been able to comfortably engage with everyone in the room.

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Good conversationalists have perfected their art

Some people are naturally blessed with a dynamic gift of gab and are able to talk to anyone about anything. Meanwhile, others struggle with simply engaging in small talk. What separates the two isn’t just a matter of affability. It’s more about their approaches to communication and their willingness to hone their conversational skills[1].

Being good at conversation is slightly different than being a good communicator. Communication is just one small component of the very delicate, dynamic and active dance that happens within every conversation.

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Here are 6 tips to help you become great at conversing

1. Seed the conversation

The concept of seeding a conversation[2] revolves around the idea of reaching outside of the topic of discussion and bringing in ideas that are thematically or philosophically related. It involves introducing and adding information and relating story excerpts from other domains that parallel the current topic. For example, if the topic is politics and the discussion turns to a particular candidate’s campaign strategy, you could introduce a relevant sports metaphor or relate it to an old war story illustrating a similar maneuver on the field of battle.

2. Know when (and when not) to interject personal experiences

Oftentimes, you’ll find yourself in a conversation with a person you may not know very well, and in an effort to establish common ground and appear relatable, you’ll begin trading stories with them. If they are talking about their dog that died, you might share the tragic tale of how you lost your gerbil in a big-wheel accident. But, while your intentions are simply to relate to the other person, this can come across as attention-seeking, or it can seem like you are trying to “one up” them, which is a major turn-off. Know when to share and when to simply let the moment belong to the other person.

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3. Be attuned to the silent conversation (a.k.a. body language)

Being attuned to the moment when the conversation has run its course or is starting to fade is one of the most important skills a masterful conversationalist must perfect. Notice when your audience is starting to drift or become distracted or disengaged, and understand that it may be the time to end the conversation, or at least move away from that particular topic. Non-verbal cues[3] communicate far more than what is being said.

4. Listen more than you speak

At the heart of being a good conversationalist is having exceptional listening skills. Listening is an action[4]. It requires focus, concentration and lots of energy. Listening involves more than just hearing what someone is saying. It also requires interpreting, hearing context and sub-context, and reading between the lines. Listening should be done with both the eyes and the ears. It is an intuitive, active process.

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5. Ask open-ended questions and give expanded answers.

Asking yes-or-no questions and/or giving yes-or-no answers are the ultimate show-stoppers. They kill the conversation, or at least stall it, and they cause that awkward silence where everyone is fishing for something to say. Being cognizant that everyone is not adept in conversation will help you work to provide expanded answers and ask open-ended questions. Giving the other person something to work with will help put at ease those who experience social tension.

6. Treat the conversation like a friendly tennis match

Do your part to keep the conversation going. One of the best ways to keep the conversational volley going is by showing emotion. The fact that we are truly engaged is demonstrated through our body language and facial expressions. Ensure that you are laughing at the appropriate places, and show sympathy, horror, or excitement as you actively listen. Your emotions and reactions should be genuine and appropriate for the tone and mood of the conversation. Save the theatrics for a different audience.

Conversations should arise organically – oversteering the conversation will shut it down quickly. Being affable, actively listening and carefully seeding the discussion will fuel the conversation and make you the talk of the party.

Featured photo credit: Linh Do via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Fast Company: 6 Habits of the Best Conversationalists
[2] Prezley: 21 Tips to Seed a Conversation
[3] Help Guide: Nonverbal communication
[4] Mind Tools: Active Listening

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Denise Hill

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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