Posts Tagged ‘dale carnegie’

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

This is what I always hear from guys, “Yue, it’s very easy to find attractive women, but why is it so hard to have a decent conversation with any of them?”  Sure, we can blame it on lack of brains and social prowess, getting by on looks alone, or overall disinterest in being interesting.  But after taking this course about the art of conversation, I have to say that it’s because most people are terrible conversationalists!  Including yours truly.  And here’s how you know you are a great conversationalist: you never have a boring conversation.

Recently I discovered Life Labs, an organization that offers classes for adults beyond the classroom basics.  As they put it, “We are an incubator for ideas on living wisely and well, offering courses, labs, and events for the common good.”  Some of the courses include The Seeing Lab (detecting micro-expressions), The Coolness Lab (what makes someone cool?), and the course I took, The Yapper Lab (the art of conversation).  Too bad they’re only offered in New York, but you could always request them in your town.

So is it possible to never have a boring conversation?  Apparently so.  And that’s why I’m going to share what I learned in class with you guys in The Art of Conversation series.

For this first post, let’s start with the “big picture.”  Here are some tidbits to keep in mind every time you start a convo:

- View every conversation as an adventure

  • A lot of guys view talking as a chore.  That’s the wrong mindset, buddy.  Conversing is a process of discovery.  If you talk to every girl you meet as potentially the most fascinating conversation to be had, you’ll be excited to yapper.

- Your goal is to talk about something you’ve never talked about before

  • Dating nowadays is like going on job interviews.  The same topics are discussed over and over again.  I remember going on a date once where this guy was literally like, “OK, so what’s your story? Where are you from?  What do you do?  Where did you go to school? Blah blah blah.”  It made me wish I didn’t waste my time shaving my legs that day.  Yes, these topics are the basics and should be discussed, but doesn’t all have to vomit out at once.  A conversation is a free flow of information driven by topics.  If “where are you from” leads to a conversation about racist blind people, then that’s what you should discuss.  The fun part is to spontaneously end on something you’ve never talked about before – such as, well, racist blind people.

- Everyone is able to talk about something interesting – you just have to discover what “sparks” them

  • In the class, the instructor showed us an observational study of a group of kids who didn’t know each other, socializing in a room.  All the kids had pretty standard conversations with each other – favorite toy, favorite color, favorite teacher, etc.  However, there was one 6-year-old girl, we’ll call her Suzie, who everyone enjoyed talking to.  In fact, they all voted her as the person they liked talking to the most.  What was Suzie’s secret?  Suzie asked interesting “spark questions” that made the other kids more engaged, such as “When did you first know you were no longer a baby?”  Suzie’s enticing questions stemmed from her natural curiosity and creative thinking.

- You don’t have to be interesting; you just have to be interested

  • In today’s world of cell phones, iPads, iPods, the internet, humans are constantly competing for each others’ attention.  People just want to be heard.  In multiple research studies presented in the class, it showed that people enjoyed having conversations with those who seemed genuinely interested, even if they contributed little or no words.  I find that on dates, we’re constantly trying to impress each other with how interesting we could be.  The problem is, nothing gets heard.  Don’t stress yourself out so much with trying to find the next interesting topic that will blow her mind.  Sit back, relax, and just listen.

- A great conversationalist takes practice

  • You’re not gonna be awesome overnight (stop crying).   So, this week, I urge everyone to take the following challenge:

PRACTICE “STICKY EYES” – Make a point to notice the eye color of everyone you speak to.  This is a precursor to showing you’re interested in what they’re talking about.  But be careful, “sticky eyes” does not equate to “creeper eyes.”  Staring? Baaad.  Strong eye contact? Goood.  Also, her eyes are up here.

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