Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Open Conversations

I spend lots of time talking about greetings ... but yes, there's a whole other piece called the actual conversation that probably needs a few words.

If you think about the better conversations you have, they probably feel like you both listened and shared in equal measures. The problem comes when you try and figure out how to make that happen deliberately.

You've heard of open questions - a great technique for getting teenagers to talk with their parents more (lol)? The premise is that you only ask questions that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no".

Sometimes even that fails as folks still answer with one or two words and no explanation. You can't change someone else's behaviour but you can monitor your own.

The next time you're looking to really engage someone in open conversation, try a few of these:

If you're asked a question that merits a one word response... follow with the word "and". Allow "and" to be a link to an explanation of your answer - a story, an anecdote or even a follow on question. That way if you're faced with someone who is also fumbling in the conversation, you have an easy technique to keep it going till you reach easier times.

Make Everyone Look Good
Chances are you won't agree with much of what folks tell you. When you meet them, is it more important to connect or to debate? You don't have to agree but you don't have to point out the obvious flaws in their logic either. "Thanks for bringing that up. It reminds me of an article..." "You've obviously thought about this. So have I. Do you think we're the only two?" etc. Keep it light and keep it moving till you know them well enough to get into the finer points.

No Perfect Answer
I'm still working on this one myself... There's no perfect/right/wrong answer to a question. Conversation is discussion - not closed proclamation to closed proclamation. You can explain yourself. You can elaborate. Speak from your gut. Fumble a bit. That's always more interesting. More nerve wracking, but interesting.

Keep the conversation flowing like a good tennis game... and don't worry about being an ace player.

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