Our day is filled with conversations, from the time we get up until the time we sleep. Yet many can be kind of boring, tedious, mundane or maybe even a waste of time. But, it does not have to be that way. First, we can often choose the conversations we want to have and with whom we want to have them. Second, we can choose on what to converse. We have the power to have interesting, meaningful, and productive conversations. Here is how.

First, there are some basics to remember about communication and conversation in general.  If you have had a conversation lately, then you know why I am going over these basics.

1) Listen and let people know they were heard. That means do not focus on what you are going to say next or do later or other extraneous distractions. You have to focus, pay attention and hear what is being said. Then to let people know they were heard, you have to repeat back or refer to something they have said.

2) Ask questions. Conversations are not monologues. They are not focused on one person. And they are not typically opportunities to talk about how incredibly awesome you are. They are a dialogue of give and take, of asking and answering questions.

3) Be genuine and give some recognition when it is deserved. In conversation we want to find things with which we can relate. That is not the same as agreeing or sympathizing with things because you feel you need to. Nor does it mean saying things to fill the silences. Being genuine is key. As is genuinely giving praise or compliments when they ate due and even looking for opportunities to do so.

4) Don’t overshare-add value: This actually goes both ways in also not asking really personal questions. Most people don’t want a load of baggage dumped on them all at once. It feels overwhelming. Nor do they want to be interrogated. A better strategy is to ask how you can help or offer insights that may add value.

Now that we have some basics down, here are some tools you can use to make your conversations meaningful and well, interesting. Besides “go to” conversation starters like what are you reading, playing, watching or listening to right now, ask people to complete the following sentences.  And complete them for yourself. Use them as a springboard to new conversations.

1) The thing I am most passionate about is. . .

2) A place I would like to go back to visit is . . .

3) The thing I like most about my job is . . .

4) My most valued possession is . . .

5) One of my secret ambitions is to . . .

6) My greatest strength is . . .

7) One thing in my life I want to change is . . .

8) I most admire. . .

9) What really makes me laugh is. . .

10) I would like it if people thought I was. . .

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