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“How are you?” These are the three most useless words in the world of communication. The person asking doesn’t really want to know, and the person responding doesn’t tell the truth. What follows is a lost opportunity and meaningless exchange with zero connection.
“When people are instructed to ask more questions, they are perceived as higher in responsiveness, an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation and care,” the Harvard researchers wrote.
So how do you move from tongue-tied to being a charismatic and interesting person? It depends on the question you start with, and then you can focus on the stream of follow-up questions.
Here are five tactics to having a meaningful conversation:
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1. Move Beyond the “Hourly Update”
The fallback for a lot of people is like the newscast “hourly update” — traffic, sports, weather and so on.
Drill this into your head: It is a horrible icebreaker. There are a few exceptions, like if it’s a genuine interest of yours and your boss or colleague shares that passion. But try to move beyond those cliché topics to things that are more important and personal to you.
2. Be in the Moment and Observe Your Surroundings
Open your eyes before you open your mouth. Find something to focus on in your surroundings, like the piece of art on the wall, a quirky gadget or family picture on their desk, a race car helmet, scattered coins from various countries and so on. There’s bound to be something that will spark small talk and help lead the conversation into unique follow-up questions.
3. Share Some News That Actually Happened
If you have “news,” share it: “I adopted a pet over the weekend” or “My 6-year-old rode a bike for the first time yesterday!” Believe it or not, most people actually do want to know more about others, especially if they both work at the same company.
4. Talk Early
Whether you’re meeting in person or dialing in for a conference call, talk early.
If you wait, two things will probably happen: One, someone else will make the comment you wanted to make and, two, your more talkative colleagues will take over with their own follow-up questions. You’ll get lost in the cross-talk and miss your chance.
5. It’s Not Just What You Say
No matter what or how much you say, your tone of voice, facial expression and eye contact will broadcast so much more.
In person, look at the other person when you speak, not at the conference table or the wall. On the phone, smile — it will make your voice sound warmer. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it, that will help others connect with you.
Do you have more similar experience to share?
Leave your comments to let us know!
See you next time! 🙂