When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with someone? Think of it well. A real conversation that made you forget your time, tide and your phones. I assume that the answer for many of us would be rare. The present scenario is such that we all have lost the art of talking and listening. A conversation requires the balance between talking and listening and somewhere down the line, we have lost that balance. Believe it or not, a major part of it is due to technology, the smartphone and social media so to say.
Our interactions and conversations with real human beings are limited to the size of our screens. Eight out of ten people prefer texting over calling and talking (as much as I hate to admit it I was no different). According to research about a third of teenagers send more than 100 texts a day. They prefer talking to people via messages rather than talking to them in person, which is highly sad. A couple of months back I met my high school teacher at a supermarket and as we were conversing about how times have changed he told me how kids these days just don’t talk to each other. According to him, good communication skills has been on a major decline in kids of today’s time. I was really sad to see how sad he was while he was expressing his thoughts.
We’ve all had really great conversations before. We all know what it’s like. The kind of conversation where you walk away feeling engaged and inspired or you feel you’ve made a real connection or that there’s someone who perfectly understands you. There is no reason why our conversations cannot become the same anymore. Post my little talk with my high school teacher I decided that I would read, research and watch all videos possible on how we could improve our conversation skills.
There’s a list of ten ways that I found out, which I myself tried that helped me improve my skills if not master them. Working on even one or two ways can take you a long way of having amazing conversations.
DO NOT MULTI-TASK– It’s just not enough that you put down our phones, tablets or keys or whatever is there in your hands. We need to be present physically as well as mentally. Whatever it is that you’re thinking about, stop it. If you don’t want to have that conversation then don’t, walk away. But don’t be half in it and half out of it. There’s no better gift than giving someone your undivided attention.
DON’T BE OPINIONATED– Enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn. There’ll always be opinions and learning, choose wisely. Bill Nye has correctly said – “Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t.” There’s always a lot to learn.
START WITH OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS– This is something that my editor always told me while I worked as a journalist. Always begin your questions with Who, What, Where, When, Why and How – 5 W’S and 1 H. I guarantee that the response you would get would be a much more interesting one.
GO WITH THE FLOW– There will always be thoughts that’ll be hovering around your mind, but you need to let them go. Stories and ideas are going to come, there will be distractions but you really need to pass them away.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW SOMETHING, ACCEPT IT! – It is perfectly okay not to know everything and there’s no harm in owning it up. You’re a human being, not Google, for god sake. Be cautious about what you claim to know. Talks shouldn’t be cheap.
DON’T COMPARE YOUR EXPERIENCES– If someone is talking to you about their troubles don’t start equating it to yours, it’s never the same, NEVER! All experiences are different. And most importantly it is not always about you. You do not need to take that moment away from them.
TRY NOT TO REPEAT YOURSELF– It is condescending and highly boring. We tend to do that a lot, especially when we have a point to make.
STAY OUT OF SPECIFICATIONS– Rude as it may sound, people do not care about the name, years, place or dates. All the details that you want to shove them up with – sadly, they don’t care. What a person really cares about is you, they want to know about you, your values, your experiences and what you hold in common.
LISTEN– This is something we all have been hearing all the time. Learn to LISTEN. I cannot begin to say how many important people have said that LISTENING is by far the most important skill that we all need to develop. How many of us really follow it? None, I guess.
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” — Dalai Lama
Why don’t we listen? We would rather talk when we talk we feel we are in control, we do not have to hear anything that we don’t want to and also we are the centre of attention.
The other major reason why we don’t listen is that we get distracted. An average person talks 225 words per minute whereas we listen up to 500 words per minute. It takes effort and energy to listen to someone, I get it! But’s what a conversation is; if not, you’re just two people shouting random words to each other at the same place.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” — Stephen R. Covey.
BE GENUINELY INTERESTED IN PEOPLE – The most important takeaway for me after my research was that I began to keep my mouth shut and mind open, I always looked forward to being amazed and honestly, I was barely disappointed. I wholeheartedly listened as well as talked to people. I was always curious to know what their journey has been like.
And Be Amazed.