Top-Shelf Tip No. 205:

"Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters."

Margaret Wheatley

Three Ways To Be A Better Conversationalist

When you walk into a networking event or trade show, do you find yourself asking the same old, tired questions? If so, your networking routine could probably use a polish. Marcel Schwantes, a speaker, executive coach, podcaster and columnist, recommends borrowing tips from the best conversationalists if you want to attract others to you. We share Schwantes' key actions for ditching the small talk and stirring up interest in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

1. Be intensely curious. When you meet someone new, Schwantes says it's crucial to find something interesting about the other person. Perhaps there's a fascinating fact or idea that you can follow up on with interesting questions of your own. This means activating the genuine curiosity within you. Several studies suggest that curious people have better relationships, connect better and enjoy socializing more. In fact, other people are more easily attracted and feel socially closer to individuals that display curiosity. George Mason University psychologist Todd Kashdan, author of Curious?, states that "being interested is more important in cultivating a relationship and maintaining a relationship than being interesting; that's what gets the dialogue going. It's the secret juice of relationships."

2. Be a good listener. Making a good impression is key to kick-start a conversation that works to your advantage but beware of dominating the conversation early on. Since people love to talk about themselves, be the one who lets the other person talk first, recommends Schwantes. Why? Because talking about ourselves triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money. Harvard University neuroscientists found the reason: It feels so rewarding to the brain when people self-disclose in a conversation that they can't help sharing their thoughts. So, by saying little, listening intently and allowing the other person to have his glory, you will make an excellent impression because people who are liked the most, ironically enough, are the ones who often say the least.

3. Ask more interesting questions. Being interesting is about being interested in other people's interesting lives and not asking redundant questions that won't elevate the conversation beyond the dreaded small talk, says Schwantes. In other words, avoid asking boring questions such as, "What do you do?" or "How are you?" when you don't really want to know. Also steer clear of the weather and discussing your favorite reality TV show.

Schwantes points out that you don't learn anything by asking predictable questions, and unknowingly you make the other person less interesting by doing so. To counter the effects of a boring conversation from the get-go, be the more interesting person by asking thought-provoking questions such as:

  • What's on your bucket list?
  • What new skill are you learning?
  • What book are you reading now?

Want to be the most interesting person in the room? Shine the spotlight on someone else.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Marcel Schwantes is a speaker, executive coach, podcaster and syndicated columnist drawing over a million readers per month worldwide to his thought leadership. His powerful speeches teach the conditions necessary for creating human-centered workplaces that result in high-performing cultures.

 

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