Dale Carnegie once said: ‘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.”
I love this quote! And I find it immensely insightful. It always gets me thinking about the art of conversation. Having a conversation might appear easy and straightforward, but in reality, it’s an art…one that needs to be honed, practised and perfected.
How often have you gone to a social gathering and found yourself in a conversation where you are the only person asking the questions and trying to get to know the other person? It can get a bit frustrating when the other person shows no interest in finding out more about you. The reason this happens is because many of us believe that good conversation is merely an exchange of words without paying attention to the flow of words. Is it one sided? Are there enough questions? Is it simply a monologue? Is the other person showing any interest in what I’m saying?
Sometimes people get a glazed look in their eyes in the middle of a conversation. That’s because they have either lost interest or become distracted. And yet, people continue talking without observing these hidden signals that the other party has moved on and is no longer an active participant.
I read a few articles about the art of conversation and here are a few gems I picked up:
ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS
There is nothing more boring than hearing someone talk about themselves endlessly. Try to find out what the other person’s opinions and beliefs are. Believe me, you will enjoy the conversation far more than if you were to talk only about yourself.
MAKE EYE CONTACT WHILE TALKING
Imagine this scenario: you are talking animatedly to someone and the person (supposedly) listening to you is looking at everything else that’s happening in the room except at you. What signals does this kind of behaviour give? Well, to me, it would seem as though the person has asked a question for the sake of asking and is not really interested in the response. True conversation involves looking at the person you are talking to. It makes them believe that you are genuinely interested in knowing what they have to say.
PAUSES IN CONVERSATIONS ARE OKAY. IN FACT, THEY ARE ESSENTIAL.
When I was younger, I was often guilty of jumping headlong into any pauses in conversations and beginning a new topic. Now that I’m older (not necessarily wiser), I cherish the importance of a pause in any conversation. It gives people time to mull over what has just been said and to decide which way the topics should flow from this moment on.
LAST BUT NOT THE LEAST, REMEMBER THAT THERE IS SOMETHING TO BE LEARNED FROM EVERY PERSON YOU MEET.
Every single conversation we have (and the person we are talking to could be younger or older than us; age doesn’t matter at all) has the potential to teach us something new. And that’s because every person we meet will surely know at least one thing we didn’t know before we met them. These random people we meet throughout our journey are some of the best teachers we come across. The trick is knowing which lesson to learn, and how to use it in our day to day life.
As Bill Nye put it: ‘Everyone you will ever meet, knows something you don’t.’