When was the last time you felt happy and fulfilled by a conversation? Even if you’ve had one good chat lately, you’ll probably agree that most of your conversations leave you feeling nervous or hungry for more meaningful interaction.
Conversation is perhaps the main mechanism for navigating our lives as social animals. From negotiating day-to-day business with the people we live with, to making emotional connections with friends and lovers, and getting through the workday successfully, we have dozens of conversations every day. Yet most people put very little thought into conversation, taking their skills (or lack of them) for granted and assuming that to put extra work into making conversations great is to erode the authenticity of the experience.
Nothing could be further than the truth. Too many conversations that feel “real” in fact consist of an exchange of learned clichés and niceties that prevent us from truly getting to know each other. Rather than listen closely, we prefer to look at our phone and issue “auto-response” replies. This is a shame, because it prevents true engagement with the topic and feelings at hand. Asking questions, rephrasing things to check you understand them properly, and waiting for the other person to finish before you even begin to think of a reply, are all good ways to make sure you’re listening mindfully.
Efficiency is another killer of conversations. We’re all so rushed for time these days that we try to get through conversations with colleagues, cashiers, even our kids, as quickly as possible. Actually, taking time to broaden a practically oriented conversation with some social content such as gossip or current affairs can help us to bond with each other and lead to more meaningful conversations.
To give your conversation skills a bit of a brush-up, try running through this infographic from OnStride. With a bit more attention, the next conversation you have could be one to remember.