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Three On Thursday

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

If you wrote a post for today I hope you’ll share a link below! Thanks for playing along!

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Your recommendation to listen more than you talk is a good one! As an introvert, sometimes I worry about my inability to participate in much small talk, but when it finally occurred to me that as long as you’ve got interesting questions to ask, most people love to talk about themselves!

  2. Sound advice. I took a community living class in small talk a million years ago and you’ve pretty much nailed it. As someone married to an introvert, I would add to watch for cues from your conversation partner so your interest doesn’t start feeling like the Spanish Inquisition to your partner. True conversation involves all parties contributing thoughts and an introvert needs a little more space between ideas for that sometimes.

  3. Great tips, Carole! Katie and I had a very interesting conversation last week about what we’re trying to Say Yes! to this holiday season. (of course we can have very interesting conversations about just about anything, but that’s a tip I could pass on 🙂

  4. I especially like number two! We are fortunate to spend the day with very like minded family these days but listening more is always a good idea.

  5. Excellent topic Carole! Doug and I sometimes marvel after a social event about how people never ask about you about you but tend to blather on about themselves or their kids or whateverrrrr. Like Aaron Burr said…talk less, smile more!

  6. This is great advice, Carole. My husband and made up our minds that we weren’t going to lose friendships of long standing over the current political situation and we’ve tried to avoid discussing it as much as possible. So far it’s worked. Let’s hope we can all get through the holidays the same way. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  7. I am with Vicki… this is good advice for EVERYDAY! But, I especially love the beautiful reminder to listen more than you talk!

    One additional tip… in the discussion, when you find common ground – build on it. Reinforce it! Embrace it! Linger over it! Because if we can all spend more time building on our common-ness – we will be less worried about our differences!

  8. Great suggestions. (And, like Vicki mentioned, they are great for EVERY day.)
    (Also, just like you, I avoid political discussions all the time. With everyone. It just upsets me too much.)

  9. Great ideas! I was at a gathering once and met the dad of one of my sons friends. This man was in the navy and had been all over the world. He started the conversation, with me, asking “What places have you traveled to?” It took me a minute to think about it and respond. But I think travel conversation is good.

  10. Great advice, Carole, and a perfect reminder before Thanksgiving. Thanks for reminding me about these tips!

  11. The art of conversation is more often about the art of listening, asking pertinent questions, and engaging the person over a period of time. Your suggestions are a good reminder that being with others isn’t about YOU. It is about others. Thank you for reminding us their are a host of other subjects we can tap into.

  12. I love these suggestions, especially the idea to ask interesting questions and to listen. Sometimes it seems as if everyone wants to tell their story but no one takes much time to listen. I try to remember that everyone has a story.

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