Continuing our “Art of Conversation” series, last time I wrote about Deep Listening: The most scarce resource in a conversation is attention. And once you’re in a conversation, what do you do?
The biggest mistake many make when in a conversation with a new person is that they worry too much about how they’re being perceived. ”Am I coming off interesting?” ”Do I sound smart?” “What should I talk about next?” Now I challenge you to shift your perspective, and focus entirely on the other person:
1) What does this person want?
Let’s say on a first date, a girl brings up her dog Guido.
What she wants: She wants to brag about her dog and why she named him Guido. So hey, you should ask her about her dog Guido. Ask as many questions as possible.
2) What does this person need?
On the same first date, she tells you about her biggest pet peeve: loud eaters.
What she needs: Good manners. So, you should ask her about how she realized this pet peeve. How she feels when she’s in a noodle shop. And how are Guido’s table manners?
3) What are her values?
She tells you how after playing Dance Central for 5 hours, she was impressed that her neighbor downstairs came by with cookies and a nice note kindly requesting her to “tread lightly.”
What’s important to her: Respect. Mature communication. Sensitivity. And cookies. It gives you an opportunity to ask her what she would do if the situation were reversed. Also, what kind of cookies?
By putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, you not only get a better sense of that person, but it also takes the pressure off of trying too hard to impress.
This week’s challenge: Talk to a bartender and try to assess her needs. Bartenders are 1) open to talking to strangers and 2) not used to talking too much about themselves. It should be a fun challenge. And even more fun if she has distracting teets.
P.S. In the class, we were given the scenario of when a cop pulls you over. While most people shit their pants and try to come up with an excuse, it turns out that according to a survey of police officers, they want you to 1) have your hands on the wheel (Safety), 2) address them by “sir” (Respect), 3) admit your wrongdoing (Acknowledgement of Authority), and 4) say you’ll ever do it again (Job Accomplished). Apparently, if you follow these 4 steps, you’ll most likely be let off on a warning. And to think, all those years of faking “female problems,” or my favorite: “no speak English.”