One conversation has the potential to change your future – for better or for worse. It is important to leave a conversation feeling good, and without any questions or concerns lingering, so that the best possible outcome can happen. Following are 6 elements to any good conversation.
Element 1 – The Greeting
The greeting allows you to find out if the other person is willing to engage in conversation or not. If you walk up to someone and start talking, then it could annoy or distract them if they are focusing on something else.
I know this is a simple point, but it is important. The beginning of the conversation sets the tone for the rest of the conversation, and you don’t want to start out on a bad foot.
Therefore, approach the person and say their ‘Hi (name)’ or ‘(name) can I talk to you?’ If you receive a positive message back, then you can start your conversation.
Alternatively, if someone approaches you and you do not feel like talking, be upfront and honest. Simply tell them that you need to focus and will talk to them later. It is much better to have a conversation when you are fully engaged with someone than to ‘try’ to have a conversation when your focus is elsewhere.
Element 2 – Understanding Their Point Of View
It is important to have an awareness of the other person’s point of view. Understanding where they are coming from, and why they are saying the things they are saying, can help you avoid becoming defensive, angry, frustrated, or bored during a conversation. To do this, you need to suspend judgment as they talk.
For example, if you meet a new co-worker who took over a job that you think is very simple, then you may be quick to judge the person with labels that are less than positive. Those judgments can affect how you listen to your new co-worker, which can have a big effect on the outcome of the conversation. So, try to step into their shoes and see the potential that they may have to make their job something that contributes a lot to the work environment.
Element 3 – Don’t Contradict What They Are Saying
Once you understand where the other person is coming from, you can tweak your point of view so that it doesn’t offend them. For instance, if you are talking to a new co-worker about their job duties and they feel as though the duties are hard, you will not want to contradict them and talk about how easy their duties are. This will lead to resentment or anger from them, and your conversation will turn into something that affects your relationship with them negatively.
Element 4 – Build Upon The Ideas Discussed
There is nothing worse than talking to someone who says, “Uh-huh,” without adding anything else to the conversation. It makes them look uninterested and disengaged, and that can make the other person feel neglected during the conversation.
Therefore, take any opportunity you see to add something to the conversation. If you don’t have any facts or knowledge to add, then ask questions to build upon the conversation.
For instance, if you are talking about your new co-worker’s job duties, you can ask them if they are planning on tweaking their duties in any way or sticking to the requirements. This will give you insight into whether or not they are thinking outside of the box, and it will allow them to discuss anything that they have been thinking about, but hesitant to mention.
Element 5 – Check To Make Sure That You Understand Each Other
Misunderstandings during communication happen all the time (it is the basis for many comedy shows!), but it doesn’t have to. Before you leave the conversation, summarize what you both discussed to ensure that you understood each other. If there is any confusion, make sure you clear it up before you conclude the conversation.
Element 6 – Conclude The Conversation
You should always close the conversation with some sort of gesture. The type of gesture depends on who you are talking to. For instance, if it is a business associate, shaking hands will help close the conversation on a friendly note. If it is a friend, a light tap on will help to close out the conversation. And if it is a stranger, a simple wave of the hand with a smile will help to conclude the conversation on a positive tone.
6 Extra Tips For A Great Conversation
There are some extra things that should be present within all 6 elements of the conversation. These things will ensure that the person you are talking to feels heard and validated, and that you both leave the conversation feeling good.
1. Eye Contact
One of the most important parts of conversation, no matter who you are talking to, is to make eye contact. Eye contact shows that you are listening to the person and value the conversation that you are having.
Even if you are concluding a conversation with a sales clerk, for example, and they say the standard, “Thank you for shopping here,” you should still make eye contact with the clerk to ensure that they feel as though you heard what they had to say and valued their words enough to initiate eye contact before separating. You will be amazed at the positive reactions you get from simply making eye contact before, during, and after a conversation.
2. Don’t Overpower The Conversation
Make sure the conversation consists of a give-and-take. If you talk too long, without letting the other person give a reaction or inject their opinion, then you risk turning the conversation into a monologue. Therefore, talking up to a minute and then allowing the other person to talk is okay, whereas talking for 10 minutes straight is not.
A conversation always has two or more people involved, whereas a monologue is done solely by you. Always remember this when talking to someone, and your conversation will benefit greatly from it.
3. When You Listen – Listen Fully
It is hard to listen! Most of us do not actually engage in full-attention listening but, instead, think about what we are going to say next. This causes us to miss valuable bits of information that the other person is saying, and that can affect the conversation in a negative way.
Make a point of staying present as the other person talks so that you can fully understand what they are saying. If it helps, try visualizing what they are saying to help you really grasp each word that comes out of their mouth.
4. Give Your Opinion, Not Your Advice
It is important to give your opinion to keep the conversation going, but unless asked for it – don’t give your advice. Giving advice can make the other person defensive and the conversation can feel more like a parent/child talk.
Even friends should avoid giving advice unless asked. For instance, if one friend says, “I feel fat today!” then a compassionate and understanding response is better than advice on how to diet.
Moreover, it is better to respond with an opinion that plants a suggestion in their head than it is to give advice. For example, using the ‘feel fat’ example, you could say, “I felt like that yesterday too! I did some cardio and felt instantly better.” This way you avoid making the other person defensive (by suggesting they need to work out) and, instead, get across your suggestion that working out may help them feel better.
5. Pay Attention To Your Non-Verbal Communication
Most experts agree that non-verbal communication is often more important than any words you choose to say. Your body language shows a person how you really feel about them and the conversation.
We already talked about eye contact, but there are two other things that you should take note of in regards to your body language.
a) Too many or too little gestures: When you are fidgeting as you speak, you can seem scattered and anxious to get out of the conversation. On the other hand, if you don’t gesture at all, you can seem bored and disengaged. Keeping your gestures to a minimum, and using them when appropriate, will give off the impression that you are engaged and focused on the conversation at hand.
b) Your body positioning: If you are turned away from the person you are talking to, then your attention seems turned away too. They may feel like you are not interested and, therefore, they may not open up to you in a way that would make for a great conversation. So, make sure your head, torso, and legs are facing them to show interest.
6. Make It Fun
I once watched two businessmen approach each other in a coffee shop. At first they were both seemed quite serious and defensive as they greeted each other. But, at one point during the early stages of the conversation, one of the men made a joke and got the other one laughing. After that bit of laughter, both the men were at ease and engaged in a natural conversation from that point forward.
Use that example to your advantage. If you can make the other person laugh, do so. It will make the conversation more fun, which will ease nerves and allow you to be more open with each other.