Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How are you? The art of good talk

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." ~Dale Carnegie


Good talk / Cindy La Ferle

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At a local pub recently, my husband and I discussed the lost art of conversation with a couple of our closest friends.  

We all puzzled over the fact that, in the past couple of years, we've met way too many people who chatter about themselves -- nonstop -- without expressing much interest in the people who are listening. A lot of us are talking at each other, rather than with each other.

What's really going on? One theory suggests that social media sites foster one-sided communication. We've grown accustomed to delivering monologues or posting personal "news" at any given moment of the day or night. We can share an event (or a deliver a rant) without waiting to see anyone in person. We might fool ourselves into thinking we're making a social connection, but in reality, we're just fueling our addiction to the rush of dopamine we get whenever someone "likes" or comments on our posts. 


And that's not the same as engaging in a real, face-to-face conversation with someone who's interested in you.  

How often have you walked away feeling drained or empty after running into an old friend or acquaintance?  Chances are, the person was trying too hard to entertain or impress you with his own stories -- rather than engage you.

Genuine conversation is a balanced exchange requiring patience, empathy, and listening skills. A good conversation is not a recital in which one person drones on about herself while the other person nods and applauds. A good conversation leaves everyone feeling heard, understood, and appreciated.  

The give-and-take of good talk

Good conversationalists make socializing a pleasure -- and if you're lucky, you already know a few of them. Here's what they do: 

1) Good conversationalists share details about their lives -- but they always find a way to loop the conversation back to you. For instance, they might share a few details about their recent vacation in Vermont -- but they'll be sure to ask what you've been doing with your free time this summer, too. 

2) Good conversationalists aim to learn something new about everyone -- even longtime friends. They'll ask you for an update on how things have been going with your work, a special project, your family, or your health. They remember that everyone has a vocation or an area of expertise, whether it's gardening, scuba diving, cooking, golf, fashion photography, or pet sitting. They want to know more about you.

3) They know that an honest compliment is a great conversation starter, which requires paying attention to the positive qualities in others. And if they run out of topics, they'll ask about your interest in books, movies, sports, or TV series. They'll ask you for movie or book recommendations; they'll ask which team you're cheering for; they'll ask about the cool shoes you're wearing. 

4) Good conversationalists don't show off. They know that most people are turned off by anyone who tries too hard to impress. If they think you'd be interested in their latest accomplishments, they'll share them in the appropriate context. They never brag or boast.

5) Good conversationalists pay sincere attention to what the other person is saying. They don't wait until it's their turn to insert an opinion. They know that listening carefully opens a window to understanding others, and is an opportunity to learn something new. No wonder others seek out their company. ~Cindy La Ferle

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