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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 September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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