“There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.”
~ James Nathan Miller
I attended a social function last weekend; a mid-afternoon mix of people I knew and others who I’d yet to meet. I’m often aware at such functions, not critically aware, simply as a participant who listens and watches, just as much as I engage. Remember, this was a social gathering. 🙂
I am a “connector.” I enjoy bringing unknown parties together. Sometimes these random introductions click and other times they fizzle. I’ve developed an interest in watching and trying to understand why some new couplings/groupings flourish and others wane. What I’ve gleaned (this may be unsurprising to some) is that there are gifted conversationalists and there are those who have yet to learn the art of effective and engaging conversation.
We know that conversation is a great way to share our everyday stories. It often greases the ‘connection’ skid. Think about some of the most important moments in your life and about the relationships you have. The foundation of nearly all of these is conversations. When we are learning about one another, we are listening and enjoying simple moments together.
Some people are conversation naturals. Others may think they are good at conversing. Most recognize that taking one’s turn in a conversation (think weaving in a tidbit here and there) and thinking before you speak (beware of foot-in-mouth), are generally accepted and encouraged etiquette. Yet there are other practices that can help one become an even more appreciated communicator. For your consideration, these three:
- Come to an occasion with topics in mind. En route to an event, think about the (known and unknown) people who will/may be in attendance. Brainstorm stories you can share and questions you can ask. Think, too, about things that may interest those you meet for the first time. Be prepared to ask them about the unique aspects of their locale. Consider asking those who do not know others better for some background information.
- Try to ask open-ended questions; questions that cannot be answered with “yes or no.” Asking someone if they enjoyed the show calls for a “yes or no” response. Asking what they thought about the performers requires more thought. Be ready to contribute to the conversation.
- Exercise courtesy. Remove and turn-off all electronic devices. How can you have a meaningful conversation when you allow yourself to be distracted by a technological instrument? If you have to stay connected put your phone on vibrate and if you must take an important call, excuse yourself from the conversation. A lack of consideration is simply rude. Agreed?