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The 12 Golden Rules of Great Conversation: Part 2

The 12 Golden Rules of Great Conversation: Part 2

This is a continuation of the 2 part series “The 12 Golden Rules of Great Conversation.

7. Great playfulness

What do all great conversationalists have in common? They know how to play with the conversation. They can make their conversation fun. They do not take everything literally or seriously.

If you are with a friend, and you get up to use the restroom, and they ask you, “where are you going?” You don’t always have to respond, “To the restroom.”

Instead, you could say something less predictable and more playful, like, “it’s a secret…” or a sarcastic “I’m leaving, I’m sick of your attitude” or “who wants to know?” or “I’m going to go buy that girl a drink…not really, I’m not that cool.”

Introducing play to a conversation opens the door for them to play along. For example, you might tell your spouse, “I’m going for a run…I’ll be back soon…” and if you add a fanciful hypothetical like, “unless I collapse from heat exhaustion…” or “unless I get attacked by stray dogs,” it becomes playful.

This opens the door for them to play along with something like, “Okay…just in case, how much is your life insurance policy worth again?” or “If I don’t see you back in 20 minutes then I’ll call the search and rescue team to come find you.”

Great conversationalists don’t always speak in literal terms such as, “the printer isn’t working well today.”  Instead, they may apply a fun metaphor, like, “The printer is being temperamental today” or “I’m currently fighting a battle with the printer… and the printer is winning. I might need reinforcements…”

8. Great interest in them

This is one of the easiest paths to great conversation (but many people don’t seem to take it very seriously). It goes beyond just listening to their long story about the time they outran a grizzly bear in Virginia. It’s about asking follow up questions. It’s about making comments about the events that they are describing. It’s about giving them attention and allowing the conversation to center on them and their interests. Be excited for them when they tell you that they just received a promotion. Sympathize with them when they tell you that they just lost their wallet.  Be interested in what is happening in their life.

As the great Dale Carnegie once said,

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“The best way to be likeable is to be interested in the other person.”

9. Great questions

What’s the secret to maintaining a conversation?

Ask great questions.

Great questions are not always literal and information-seeking. If you’re out to lunch with your friend and ask, “How’s your job going?” – that’s a basic information-seeking question, and you’ll probably receive a basic answer such as, “It’s good.” Upgrade your conversation by thinking outside the box and taking a fun approach, like, “Have they made you CEO yet?” or “Is your boss still keeping you in that hamster cage?” These questions may appear playful on the surface, but they can still contain real inquiries about real topics.

The literal questions can steer a conversation to different topics, but the fun questions can keep the conversation playful and entertaining. Fun questions are often rhetorical in nature and don’t always seek a genuine response. They are meant to introduce playfulness to the conversation so it doesn’t become stuck in serious-land.

Maybe you see a coworker coming out of the building with a computer monitor. Instead of a literal, “What are you doing with that?” you could ask a playful hypothetical question, “Stealing office equipment again, huh?” Now that you’ve introduced a playful element, they may play along, with something to extent of, “You caught me!…hey are you looking for a monitor? 10 bucks and it’s yours!”

10. Great responses

Great conversation is like a great tennis match. If someone asks a poor conversationalist how their weekend was, they often reply with, “It was good.”

Merely answering a question is not enough for great conversation. After answering, it’s your turn to hit the tennis ball back so the conversation can keep going. Offer your tennis partner something to play with (something to respond to). After saying, “it was good,” provide a reason why it was good, offer an example or share a story. Talk about how you feel about it. Then even ask a question back.

It’s also important to match their energy. Did they just have a baby? Share in their joy! Act excited, ask them follow up questions.

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Great responses are sometimes playful. Maybe they complain to you, “My fingers are so cold…” And you could respond with something boring like, “that’s too bad.” Or you could offer something playful,

“You’re always cold. Maybe it’s a medical condition. I think your blood vessels actually stop at your wrists and don’t go up into your fingers.”

and then they may play back,

“Maybe you’re right. That’s why my fingers are always blue. I should probably get checked out.”

11. Great stories

It’s not easy to entertain groups of people with interesting stories. The good news is that stories don’t have to be Pulitzer-Prize worthy for your listeners to enjoy them. In fact, some of the best stories are simple stories about every day events that may describe a unique twist or occurrence.

Stories do not need to be elaborate and long. Did your pet dog accidently nibble on your new shoes? Did your toddler throw up at the grocery store? These events can make great stories, and most stories can be squeezed into 30 seconds.

Great stories have some common characteristics. Make it a goal to include some or all of these story parts in your next story:

Setup: For example, “That reminds me, I was just at that store two days ago and I saw the strangest thing.”

Contrast against what normally occurs:  “I was watching this movie and I figured it was just going to be some boring “chick-flick”, but…”

or

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“…and normally they would just get up and leave, but this time they…”

Details:  Details add color and imagery to any story. Instead of, “and some girl bumped into me…”

try

“and some heroin-addict looking girl bumped into me…”

Dialogue: Always add dialogue when you can. It’s easy and entertaining. “I was like, ‘When is this party going to end? This guy is so creepy!”

Reaction:  “He bought me lunch… and I was stunned, I couldn’t believe it!”

Turning Point: Great stories have turning points, like, “It was that moment where I felt…”

Post Commentary: Don’t forget to comment about your story, “If it wasn’t for Joe, I don’t know where we’d be right now! Probably stuck in a ditch somewhere.”

Limiting your story to 20 – 30 seconds may not seem like much time, but if they want to hear more, they will let you know!

12. Great initiative

Great conversation can only occur when at least two people are taking initiative. One sided conversations are never “great.” Simply responding to someone talking with, “oh yeah,” or “that’s neat,” or “I like it too,” is not a great conversation.

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State your opinions more often. “Wow, she needs to put down the mascara,” or “This is my favorite Italian restaurant of all time,” or “You look kind of like a homeless man today.”

It also helps to add some superlative or definitive statements as well. They are simply more interesting than wishy-washy, passive statements. For example:

“That’s the best coffee I’ve ever had…I can’t believe it’s so cheap.”

“Easily one of the top five movies I’ve seen this year.”

“I always read XYZ, it’s the only magazine that I fully trust.”

And when you can, go beyond just stating your opinion. Add support. Add some commentary. For example:

Opinion: “I’m excited to try this place.”

Support: “I’ve heard great things. I actually haven’t had Italian in a long time. I’ve been on a Chinese kick lately.”

Commentary: “I actually think my kitchen is starting to permanently smell like Chinese food!”

Conclusion

It’s important to remember that developing conversation skills is a lifelong journey. If you always aim to be perfect, you will lose out on the most important rule of them all; have fun.

(Photo credit: Conversation courtesy of Shutterstock)

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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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