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If you have ever been to a cocktail party or tried to strike up a conversation with someone you do not know well, then you know that not all conversations feel the same.
Some conversations flow beautifully like a freshwater river, while others feel more like a stagnant pond. And while it is tempting to blame the difference between these types of conversations on other people, the truth is, YOU have the power to change the culture of every conversation.
Here are three practical and effective things you can do in your next conversation to take it to the next level.
To have a great conversation, we have to stop talking AT people and start talking WITH people.
A conversation is a dialogue between two people, but more often than not, it looks like two people patiently waiting for the other person to finish their monulogue so they can give theirs.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
Rather than wait your turn to talk all about yourself, why not use your turn in the conversation to ask a question, then let the other person talk again?
Why would you do this?
First, it will be so counterculture to what the person usually experiences in most of their other conversations that YOU will stand out and be someone they naturally gravitate towards because they want that experience again.
Second, and more importantly, you may just learn something new! Asking a question opens the door to new knowledge and great understanding. After all, we never learn anything new when WE are the ones speaking!
BODY LANGUAGE ENGAGEMENT
Nothing leads to stagnant conversations faster than disengaging body language.
Body language is simply communicating something to others with your body (think: frowning vs. smiling, direct eye contact vs. staring into space.)
In your conversations, being aware of what you are saying with your body language is key.
Avoid disengaging body language, which includes things like frowning, sighing, crossing of arms, looking into space, and fidgeting while others talk.
Instead, practice body language that engages the other person. People who use their body language to engage others often lean in to listen, smile, sustain comfortable eye contact, and give affirming head nods.
Developing these habits and being aware of our body language is what moves the conversation gauge from average to thriving.
PRACTICE THE "YES, AND…" TECHNIQUE
In improv, there is something called the "yes, and…" rule.
In short, the "yes, and…" rule is a frame of mind that says a person should accept whatever the other person says ("yes"), and then expand on it ("and"). It is a way to keep the improv show moving forward at all times.
Now, there are obvious limitations to applying this to our everyday conversations (we should not and cannot agree with everything), but what if we worked to apply the spirit of this rule to our conversations?
What if, rather than getting caught up on correcting little things, we focused more on the flow of the conversation.
What if we prioritized encouraging others over making everyone view the world the way we do?
Filter the urge to correct others through this lens: is correcting them necessary for their happiness or for the health of the relationship? If not, let it slide and focus on moving the conversation forward—encouraging the person along the way.
If you want to take your conversations to the next level, work on asking great questions, practicing engaging body language, and incorporating the "yes, and…" technique.
Be gentle on yourself, as these habits take time to organically incorporate into your everyday life, but practice makes perfect. Tackle one of these three keys each day, and see how your conversations change as you focus on intentionally asking more questions, positioning your body in engaging ways, and employing the "yes, and…" technique.
J.V. Fuji is one of the leading Conversation Coaches in the United States. Learn more about his classes and his private coaching.