I recently got home from an adventure at Praxis Weekend. It was a gathering of many great minds and hearts all sharing a desire for creating value in the world. Amazing people means amazing conversations and chances to connect on a deep emotional level. It was especially interesting to see the development of my own social skills. I used to be such an awkward kid. It took a lot of willpower and good parenting to get me to even look people in the eyes. Yet, over this weekend I seemed to have left a very meaning impact on everyone I spoke with. I found it easy to dive straight into an intimate connection. It’s undeniable that part of this is just the amazingness of the praxis community. However, even given the quality of my conversation partners, there was certainly a collection of conscious actions I took to get the most out of my one on ones. Here is a list of 5 tips anyone can use to have good conversations.
Prepare Bold Questions
Small talk is fucking stupid. Just don’t do it. Start strong. Find a question that will rip past their social barriers to look deep into their soul. Questions like “what sort of things make you feel alive?” “What’s the hardest part about pursuing your personal passion?”. You want to ask questions that lead to an insight on their essence. Get a greater understanding of who they are and what they value at a deep level. Remain fluid and prepared for any conversation, but it can be helpful to prepare a handful of big questions that are broad enough to ask anyone.
Give Your Full Attention
People can tell when you’re not truly interested in what they have to say. Your body language communicates so much. If you are distracted or not totally invested it will be obvious. Eye contact is probably the most important part of this. You may also want to face your body directly at your conversation partner. Avoid looking at your phone or getting caught in several different conversations at one.
Thread The Conversation
Threading is the concept of maintaining free-flow in a conversation by being aware of the many possible directions it can go. When they say something like “I started working at this company so I could get a better grasp of marketing in the health industry”, you’re given many different avenues to go down. You could ask them about how they landed the job. You could ask them their favorite parts of working the health industry. You could also ask them why they want to get into marketing. This insight empowers you to direct the conversation to some degree, focusing on things that you also find interesting. Being aware of conversational threading also means making sure your statements have many possible threads. Keep your statements complex enough to lead to several possible questions. When done right you can literally keep the talk going all night.
Go From Cold to Warm Conversation
Cold conversation is about getting basic facts, such as learning where they work and where they live. Warm conversation is more focused on intimacy and emotions. A good conversation has both but will usually weigh towards the warm side. Everyone at the party already asked them where they work, you should be the one to ask them what part of that job makes them feel most alive.
End on a High Note
The last moments of a conversation can set the emotional tone for their memory. Even if you’ve realized you hate this person or you’ve been disagreeing all night, it will be valuable to end on something positive. Tell this person how much you’ve enjoyed the conversation. Tell them you appreciate who they are and value your friendship with them. Touch can also be extremely useful here. A tasteful hug or a hand placed on their shoulder will reassure them that you were genuinely interested. My favorite thing is to give a nice long hug, look them in the eyes as I pull back and say “I love you and I appreciate this conversation”. As I am genuine when I say it, it certainly seems to leave an impact.