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I love a good conversation. Don’t get me wrong I am sometimes rubbish at them. Still there is nothing I enjoy more than having a good old natter. I love learning about people, what they like, where they have been, their hopes and fears. It is the essence of connection and the spark of humanity that connects us.
I sense this joyous art is at risk today, increasingly people are feeling pressured to say the “right thing”. I have seen lists of questions you should not ask people circulating social media. Don’t get me wrong there is a time and a place for every thing but the way we are restricting the free flow of conversing is suffocating conversation. In an effort to reignite this essential skill here are my top tips.
No topic should be off limits unless requested to be so.
Take the lead from the people you are speaking too. If you are a confident communicating perhaps ease your way into more difficult or interesting topics. If you are a nervous communicator don’t over think it, yes some questions can be more likely to cause upset, but even the most non personal, inert questions to the wrong person can be upsetting. Take did you enjoy lunch? You don’t know if that person struggles with food issues. In my opinion any question could be framed as good or bad and honestly you will never know, until you ask, sometimes you won’t even know then.
My advice ask the questions you naturally want to ask, just pay attention to the answer.
Listening is more important than responding.
I know we want to show we are interested, that we care in our response. Sometimes though we run the risk of thinking more about how we are going to respond than really listening to the person.
If you focus on listening, your response will come naturally.
Remove distractions, clear your mind and focus on what the other person is saying.
Maintain the focus on them not you.
This is a tricky one. We naturally look for connections with others and try to share our similar experiences to build bridges. Just be careful to maintain the attention where it is focused.
Of course you can add to the topic of conversation but try to respond with a probing question rather than simply a ‘Yeah this happened to me too…’
Choose your words wisely but be more concerned with their intent.
Words have such power. The same sentence spoken aloud different ways can mean very different things. And language is complex, so accept that you won’t always get it right.
Of course remember words can hurt so be kind. And positive statements can have more of an impact than negative ones.
Still don’t overreact if someone uses the wrong word, did they mean to?
Ignore all this advice.
Above all, ignore all this advice if it does not feel right to you. Conversation is definitely more of an art than a science. Let the conversation flow. You never know where a conversation might lead.