With an inclination towards multitasking high and the capacity to concentrate at an all time low it’s not a surprise that we too often sacrifice the enjoyment of the process. Of everything. Sometimes, conversation feels like a sacred art form or another species on the endangered wait list. In transient times, how can we revive the art of meaningful conversation?
Whilst I can’t boast being an incredible conversationalist, I can certainly attest to being advanced in observation (and yes, maybe just a little bit pervy). Here’s what I’ve learnt:
In general, keep the crux of the message simple and don’t be offended if others want to get to the point. Generally speaking there’s purpose behind each of our actions, so if you’re calling me, I ask why; not to be rude, just so I know if there’s a timeframe for the conversation or if I should get out my handsfree, boil the kettle and get cosy.
Understand that we all communicate differently. This is the foundation for good communication on any level. Some of us maintain a sturdy level of chatter all throughout their day and this doesn’t differ much with the person, timing or subject. Others need to be comfortable and ‘opened up’ to conversations of certain topics. They need to feel secure in their trust of the other person and/or that their words are relevant to the particular setting. Knowing who you’re talking to and how they communicate best means you’re more likely to have a great chat.
Listening is a skill we should all, constantly be attempting to refine because unlike not being able to shut up, listening will never put you at a disadvantage. As Buddha says:
“If your mouth is open, you’re not learning.”
When we speak we are in control, so learning to listen demands that we relinquish control. Easier said than done (or, heard.)
Don’t be a hog. It genuinely upsets me when I feel a conversation heading down the route of thinly disguised egoism, or, a medium of manipulation to get only what you want out of it, i.e. Verbal Masturbation. A good conversation should be a balanced forum of reciprocal thoughts between two equally interested people.
Like anything you want to excel at, conversation requires focus, which means, if you’re going to do it, don’t bastardize it with excessive multi-tasking. Obviously, in some circumstances this isn’t quite possible; at work, whist ordering coffee or doing deadlifts. But when you have one of those rare and special opportunities to engage with someone then commit to it whole-heartedly.
The hidden truth: The primary goal of a good conversation should be that both parties go away from it feeling good. You may feel good for a variety of reasons; you’re enlightened, inspired, educated or reassured. But how do we make sure this happens? A good conversation should be heavy on both candour and authenticity and the short cut to getting there is by asking meaningful questions. Not only does this perfectly align with my point about listening but, if you’re dipping into the character of someone else by asking questions, you’ll automatically be validating their words. Validation of words is imperative to any good conversation. By validating another person’s words (note – I did not say their thoughts or feelings) just by listening you will make them feel good about being heard.
The Science behind it: Connecting with another human being via talking actually releases a chemical in our brains called Oxytocin. Also known as the Love Drug, increased levels of Oxytocin have obvious effects on our levels of happiness and overall wellbeing; you’ll likely feel more harmoniously aligned and supportive of the other person, plus it will heighten your own levels of confidence and social fluidity.
Make conversation, not war.