You know what’s a week from today? Thanksgiving. It’s so early this year I feel like it’s kind of sneaking up on us but still, it’s next week and there’s no changing it. I love the holidays and I feel like Thanksgiving is truly the kick off to a truly special time – a season of gatherings with family and friends, coworkers and community leaders, fellow travelers on our path through life. And guess what? Those gatherings require conversations and right now I feel like there can be a lot of . . . incivility . . . when it comes to making conversation. So, today, I’m here to suggest some tips to get you to be a truly great conversationalist.
- Ask interesting questions. Sure, the standard might be to ask about work but not everyone works. Instead how about asking about something other than work. Try, “what have you been doing lately that’s making you happy” or “what are you most excited about right now” to get the ball rolling. These are open ended questions and should be a great way to break the ice if you’re standing around awkwardly trying to make small talk.
- Listen more than you talk. This is a hard one for a lot of people but if you really want to engage with someone and get to know them you need to have them do the talking. Follow up questions (how did that make you feel?) are important but so is body language and other non-verbal clues like looking a person in the eye when they are talking and leaning in to the conversation. As my grandfather used to say, you have two ears and one mouth for a reason . . . try to listen twice as much as you talk.
- Avoid uncomfortable topics. These days I completely avoid politics. For one, I don’t know if someone will agree with me and if they don’t I’m likely to be upset and judge-y. For another, even when someone agrees with me, politics are so upsetting to me right now that I don’t even enjoy those conversations! Other topics to avoid? Religion, medical conditions, and socioeconomic status. This doesn’t mean you have to have banal conversation, though. Try talking about a really great book you’ve read or movie you’ve seen. Compliment someone on their outfit. Ask about what kind of music they like. Be interested in them and you will in turn be interesting.
So those are my main tips. I’d also suggest don’t brag, don’t gossip and don’t get defensive. When all else fails talk about my favorite topic: food!
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