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The 12 Golden Rules of Great Conversation: Part 1 of 2

The 12 Golden Rules of Great Conversation: Part 1 of 2
Golden Rules of Conversation
    Golden Rules of Conversation

    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!”

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    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 trickledown 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…”

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    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.

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    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.

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    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…

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    Last Updated on February 25, 2020

    5 Rules for Overcoming Adversity and Emotional Pain

    5 Rules for Overcoming Adversity and Emotional Pain

    “Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world, the disarray. I choose to see the beauty. To believe there is an order to our days. A purpose.” – from the popular show, “Westworld”

    It’s different for us all. My personal quest for purpose began with five stages of grief and one startling realization that everything’s endlessly fragile. Adversity, as it happens by rule, found me terribly unprepared, so I decided to take my time. Today, I can honestly say that I’ve grown.

    Ugliness and beauty, good and evil, pain and laughter – everything in the universe consists of two forces that are opposing but complementary. In the face of difficulty, that is the only mantra you need.

    Here’s how I learned it and why you should too, with five simple rules.

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    1. Embrace the Complexity

    Quite insidiously, adversities come in all shapes and sizes. Paralyzing physical disabilities, mind-wracking mental problems, ruthless emotional havocs, all leading to the same painful acknowledgement: all the beauty in the world cannot possibly make up for the ugliness that surrounds us. Shattered to pieces, helpless and bare naked, we sit in our therapy chairs, apologizing for being so negative.

    Eventually, what it all comes down to is the nature of negative emotion. Our positives overshadow our negatives, thus wrongly teaching us that the road to well-being is paved with nothing but positive feelings and thoughts. How utterly wrong!

    “If you’re not failing every now and then, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything innovative”, Woody Allen said.

    It’s a classic “learn from your mistakes” rule, but in this case, it implies growing from negative experiences. Make peace with your negativities and embrace beauty and ugliness alike! Accepting this marvellously complex world just as it is will allow you to find purpose in adversity and meaning in misery.

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    2. Find Balance, Regain Control

    Still, accepting adversity is only the first step toward eventual victory. One can endure only so much trauma in life; if we’re not prepared to deal with difficulties in a productive way, even the minor setbacks can get us off track. Our strengths come from learning, and the best way to learn is through a series of trials and errors. Just like phases of grief or stages of drug addiction, adversities suggest a disabling loss of control, so find your way to regain it.

    Some call it the coping mechanism; for others, it’s a spiritual will. However you choose to name yours, know that not all supporting systems are equally beneficial, though each is effective in its own way. Escapism was mine, but it only helped me retain the illusion of beauty. It wasn’t until I opened up toward the ugliness and accepted the naked truth that I was finally free. Whether you choose to dwell in art, religion and spiritualism, thus feeding your resilience from within or to reach out to others for help, choose wisely.

    Whatever the means, the second rule is a golden one: find your inner balance and stick to it. Eventually, it will lead you out of the vicious circle.

    3. Fight with Patience

    My bargaining turned in depression with a single touch. Fearless and free, my dance instructor timidly put her hands on my shoulders and I realized, for the first time, just how tense, stiff and cloistered I was. And just like that, I started letting go. Adversities have their sneaky ways, but in my experience, becoming aware is what hurts the worst. It took me a year to recover from this little moment of self-discovery, and I know remember it as the edge of the rabbit hole.

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    Some sufferings are impossible to console; I know that now. The only way to get through is to, well, get through. Depression and despair are only the beginning of the excruciatingly unnerving process that ravages the mind and shrivels the soul, and once they strike, there is no easy way back. So, fight them with patience. When your head starts spinning and your feet lose ground, go to your happy place. Over there, you’ll be reminded that nothing is forever, not even our little existential psychosis.

    Take a deep breath and say “om”. When things cannot be combated, they have to be endured, so practice patience and learn to let go. Finally, keep repeating to yourself that this too shall pass.

    4. Keep Swimming

    Nothing is impossible, in the end. Your negative thoughts will gently pour into your positive ones, just as two streams come together to become a river. In the event of the inevitable disaster, one can only be as calm as still water. Suffering teaches patience, and the latter gives rise to flexibility. Ultimately, what is life than a series of unfortunate events and a handful of bright moments in between? If adversities are impossible to avoid, than learn to glide through as smoothly and patiently as water does with rocks.

    Even if spirituality isn’t exactly your cup of tea, you have to admit that this is one solid metaphor. Staying adaptable in the face of change will soothe your panic attacks and keep you sane and sober-blooded. Even if you fail, you’ll know exactly how to breathe and face what’s in front of you once it eventually strikes again. Stay calm and visualize a better tomorrow; if anything else, it will give you strength to dive deep and weather the storm. And, in case there’s somebody’s hand to reach out to, grab it firmly and don’t let go.

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    Being flexible against adversities takes a lot of learning, just as staying brave demands a lot of courage. It’s a long, arduous step-by-step routine, and you can reach the end only by swimming on. Persist, even when you fall.

    5. Never Stop Searching for Inspiration

    And, if it’s a guidance you need, where else to seek it than in experiences of others? Find it in art, in people around you, in chance encounters. The pure beauty of perseverance can be discovered where you expect it the least, so never stop searching for inspiration. If self-help literature soothes your pains and clears your mind, don’t let cynics discourage you. Your path toward reconciliation is nobody’s but yours to choose.

    Ever heard of Nick Vujicic? Or Nando Parado? Inspiring people sound their yawps over the roofs of the world, sometimes voiceless, sometimes limbless, sometimes both. Born without arms, Jessica Cox became the most unusual certified pilot in the world, and you can rarely see her without a smile on her face. If you’ve already ripped all of your bucket lists and said goodbye to your dreams and plans, meet Sean Swarner, who’s officially became the first cancer survivor to climb Mount Everest. The stories just go on.

    Make your own guidebook! Pen down your positive thoughts, cover your walls with quotes and devise your personal mantras. Whenever things get hard, they’ll be there to remind you of what you need to do. It’s the simplest of all life hacks, and one of the most effective ones.

    Find beauty in the world, but never stay blind for its ugliness. However daunting, adversities and emotional pain challenge our inner strength, thus making us resilient and allowing us to grow. As soon as you recognize them as the wind in your sails instead of the devastating storm, the purpose will become simple and clear.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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