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Making Good Conversation Nov 26, 2020

Making Good Conversation

Let's Talk
With the advent of smartphones, social media, short attention spans, and an increasingly disconnected world, real conversation-in-the-flesh is becoming archival footnote. And when conversation takes place, changing social norms and convention make it a minefield on what the dos and don'ts are. Here's a smart guideline from radio host and public speaker, Celeste Headlee.

Making Good Conversation
laughing out loud with Christine

Getting My Bearing
I have no problem having a conversation with anyone. But the compelling question is, am I doing it right? Since conversation is part of my socialscape, I begin to wonder what I'm doing wrong and what I'm doing right. The rules below reflect my own bloopers just to make it closer to home.

The Project
Practice one rule per day and reflect at the end of the day.

The Rules

  1. get an alarm - everything below will only work if you are mindful. Once you get carried away in the conversation, you default back to your old habits. Set a 30-min alarm. When it alarms, you are reminded about the above, but mostly to just shut-up and listen
  2. listen - listening is the most important of them all, and it's not easy. Like in meditation, your mind will drift inevitably. When you catch yourself, bring yourself back into the conversation. Ask a question if you have to, to bring you up to speed. Listen and understand instead of waiting for a pause to wedge-in your reply
  3. shut up! - shutting-up is hard specially when you know a lot or if you think you're right. Just don't rant on your beliefs no matter how right or useful you think that may be. Keep your opinion unless asked for - nobody gives a shit about what you think (unless asked for). Instead of preaching, open up and be curious
  4. stay present - don't multi-task. Get rid of phones, beepers, etc. Forget the deadlines, forget the 'to do' list for the day, etc. Stay in the moment. Ask questions if something is not clear - this way, you are forced to listen and participate
  5. go with the flow - don't digress. If they are talking about mountain biking, don't inject yoga (simply because it's your thing and you can talk plenty about it)
  6. admit that you don't know - even if you might look stupid coz everyone else seems to know it. Admitting this is also a humility exercise that could be timely

    Girl: When Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield, he never meant it to be published

    Guy: David Copperfield the magician? Dickens was dead before Copperfield was born!

  7. ask questions - ask who, what, when, where and why?

    Girl: I went to see my doctor.

    Guy: What happened?

    Girl: I went to the market and ate some street food. Then my tummy started acting funny.

    Guy: When did this happen?

    Girl: Just yesterday.

    Guy: Where was this market?

    Girl: Mueng Mai by the Ping River.

    Guy: How did you manage to get home?

  8. make it about them - not about you

    Girl: I went to see my doctor.

    Guy: What happened? (NOT: "really? I also went to see my therapist last week....")

    Girl: I went to the market and ate some street food. Then my tummy started acting funny.

    Guy: When did this happen? (NOT: "I had that same problem in Cambodia...")

    Girl: Just yesterday.

    Guy: Where was this market? (NOT: "Yesterday? I went to the movies yesterday...")

    Girl: Mueng Mai by the Ping River.

    Guy: How did you manage to get home? (NOT: "That's where I go for my fresh produce...")

  9. do not repeat yourself - you are assuming the person didn't get you the first time, or he's too stupid to get it the first time. Don't rephrase either - it's the same shit
  10. chuck the details - they don't care about the dates, names, places, etc.

    Wrong: "In 2004, when I was still in Canada working for AIM Funds as a web designer, I met the VP of Human Resources, Henry Tan, who told me that he was a company man before he is a friend."

    Right: "I met an HR executive who takes his corporate mandate over office friendship."

  11. keep it concise - don't say in 10 sentences what you can say in 5 words

    Wrong: "When somebody cuts you off in traffic, your reflex is to give the finger. But you're just going on auto-pilot like most of us. If you catch yourself early enough, you can pause and think about other exercisable options. Maybe give the guy the benefit of the doubt and give him the right of way. When we catch ourselves, only then are we able to exercise free will."

    Right: "Awareness is key to free will."

Making Good Conversation
going with the flow: with Karen and Handstand James

Ending Thoughts
My former boss Feliciano Salonga (father of celebrity Lea Salonga in the Philippines), often remarked, "It's very easy to be a good conversationalist. All you have to do is listen." In summary, when you enter a conversation with this in mind, you'll probably have a good conversation, "What can I learn from this guy? What does he know that I don't know? Let me shut up, get him to talk and let's learn something new."

--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
YOGA by Gigit Yoga by Gigit | Learn English Learn English | Travel like a Nomad Nomad Travel Buddy | Donation Bank Donation Bank for TheLoneRider

Reader Comments:

Mark RatcliffMark USA
Mark Ratcliff Photography
(Nov 27, 2020) Excellent post and something I feel I have been guilty of many a time. Thanks for this. I particularly like number 11, however, talking in circles can help with thinking through things and fleshing out the wheat from the chaff sometimes. My justification for babbling 🙂

Dave JoudreyDave Canada
(Nov 27, 2020) Good advice!

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