Posts Tagged ‘art of conversation’

Let’s just pretend I never went on a blogging hiatus.  Cool?  Cool.

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.”

I highly recommend this book by Dale Carnegie: How To Win Friends and Influence People

Last week, we looked at the overall goal of conversations: view every conversation as an adventure.  Now, to some technical stuff, starting with DEEP LISTENING.

Before you tell me you think you’re a great listener, think again.  Most people think they’re listening when all they’re doing is going through the motions of listening (eye contact, nodding, pointed body language).  For example: think of a close friend.  Got it?  OK, now what does this person do for a living?  Can you describe his/her day-to-day?  Believe it or not, most people can’t answer this question.  It’s the “Chandler Effect” on Friends.  Remember?  The running joke was nobody knew what he did, but they remember bits and pieces.  The case is, when we think we’re listening, we’re only picking up on bits of pieces of the conversation.  That doesn’t make for a great conversationalist because you’re not absorbing comprehensive information that can feed into a better next topic.  So, here are some techniques for improving your deep listening skills.  Let’s say you’re getting to know a new girl:

  • Take notes in your mind.  Before pen and paper, people used to memorize entire conversations or lectures.  We’re historically good listeners up until now with the ease of technology.  Go old school, and make a conscious effort to take mental notes.
  • Paraphrase whenever appropriate.  Repeating back what you’ve heard is a great way to show her you’re listening but also a great way to change the topic if you’re totally bored.  Let’s say she’s been talking about her damn chihuahua fo’ eva now, you can try saying, “You obviously love your dog since you cook him organic chicken twice a week, but what is your favorite food?”
  • Don’t cross your body.  Open body language not only makes it comfortable for the other person to divulge more info, but it’ll help you listen better.  When we cross our bodies (arms, legs, etc), we tend to be distracted by what we’re able to feel.  Meaning, let’s say you cross your arms, then your hands will play with your shoulders or side boob (and if you have side boobs, we should talk).  When your body language is open, you’re less distracted.
  • Notice synchronization.  The tell-tale sign of someone who is truly listening is when movements become synchronized.  A study of a group of people at a dinner party revealed that when they were engaged in a great conversation, their eating behavior was in synch.  So throughout your conversation, do a quick checkpoint and notice if you’re starting to pick up your drink when she does, and vice versa.
  • Lean in.  An observational study in a college classroom found that the professor lectured with confidence and witty humor while the class was leaned in; however, he became stiff and nervous when the students leaned back.  Unless if you just ate dog shit, it’s better to lean in and get “into” the conversation.
  • Listen for inflections.  When her tone changes, it shows that she has a strong connection to whatever she’s talking about, even if it has to do with Kim Kardashian’s divorce.  When you hear changes in her inflections, take note.  Those are her hot buttons.

For this weekend, practice the following:

OPEN STANCE – Notice where people put their hands when conversing, and make a point to keep your hands at your side.

LEAN – Lean in to everybody you talk to.

I highly recommend this book by Dale Carnegie: How To Win Friends and Influence People