In This Chapter
^ Showing interest in others ^ Being more interesting ^ Making others feel valued ^ Receiving and giving compliments rn Bo you get a tiny pang of jealousy when you see other people effortlessly engage in animated conversation with anyone and everyone they meet? Who wouldn't want to be a conversational whizz? Self-inflicted pressure to appear interesting and make stimulating conversation can be immense, both socially and at work. Reversing this pressure is easy, though; just focus on being interested in the other person. A bit of thought, some research, and a subtle dose of flattery and your conversation will shine.
Showing that You're Interested
Have you ever had a conversation with someone where they've done all the talking and you've just nodded and smiled along politely, only to be told that they've had a really interesting conversation with you and what great company you are? Actually, you've not said a lot but you've looked really interested in what they've said. This, in turn, makes you appear interesting.
Knowing in advance who the people are that you're going to be talking to is a massive bonus. Whether you're meeting them in a business or social environment, a vast amount of information exists out there on everyone and the organisations we work for.
Stewart was running a girl's name through Google before their first date to find out some more about her so as to have some lines of conversation if things ran dry. Out of curiosity, he ran his own name through and was horrified to see his credit card number and address come up on a fraud site and realise that someone was posing as him on Facebook. Entries he'd contributed to a techie forum also turned up, which was fine, but his responses to a blog that were less than complimentary, he didn't want just anyone to see. Stewart reported the Facebook and credit card fraud, and asked the blogger to remove his posting. After his initial shock, he did manage to find his date's information, the places she'd been on holiday, the music she liked, and an entry in a dating site that even told him her salary bracket.
If you want to keep your life private, use caution when putting things on the net. Letting people find things out about you may, however, attract like-minded people.
The Internet holds the key to getting this information quickly and being able to cross-check sources. Run the person's name through Google to see if anything comes up. Search engines are brilliant for business because you can see if the person's done anything of note or what developments are occurring in their organisations. Social networking sites like Facebook and linkedin get even more traffic than Google, and they're chock-full of information about individuals. With only six degrees of separation between you and every other person on the planet, you'd be surprised who and what you have in common.
Some people may think of research as stalking, but seeking background information is only stalking if you suddenly start telling them information about themselves that they haven't divulged to you!
Just as you're looking up other people, other people will likely look you up too. Identity theft on social networking sites is on the rise. Although such thieves can't hack into your bank account, someone pretending to be you is irritating because you have no control over what they're saying to your friends, for example. If you're not already on Facebook or MySpace, consider at least adding yourself, if for no other reason than to stop anyone else taking your identity and masquerading as you.
Talking about themselves is something most people enjoy. Use the information you gather to steer conversations effortlessly in the right direction and you'll build rapport even faster.
Jim was meeting Emma for a coffee. He'd found out about the company she worked for and the charity organisation she volunteered with, so he was prepared to demonstrate interest in her. Emma was answering his first question, when he suddenly launched into his second. Out of politeness, she abandoned her response to the first question and started answering the second. Again, Jim interrupted with another question, and so it continued. Emma found his constant interrupting annoying and felt he just wasn't interested in anything she was saying as he was constantly changing the subject. Emma eventually challenged Jim and he apologised profusely; he hadn't realised he was creating this impression. On their next date, Jim followed the three simple conventions and everything went smoothly.
How many questions you ask isn't what makes for interesting conversation; the flow of the dialogue is what matters. Use the three rules to keep things ticking over smoothly.
Certain conventions need to be observed when trying to appear interested whilst making conversation. Follow these three simple conventions in any kind of conversation, from dealing with clients to flirting at parties, and watch your relationships improve:
✓ Don't ask more than one question at once. Not only does doing so waste your material, you confuse the other person and the conversation will be shorter as a result.
✓ Let the person answer the question. Nothing is more irritating than someone answering their own question or trying to put words into your mouth.
Whilst listening to their responses, watch their faces too. Any subject that elicits a long answer and an animated expression is a thread worth pursuing further, especially if you can add a similar anecdote of your own. (Head to Chapter 8 for information on personal disclosure.)
When telling of a similar experience, make sure you don't outdo their story; doing so's an instant rapport killer. If you haven't got a similar experience to share, ask them about the details of the story to add colour and dimension to it.
✓ Don't talk at tangents. Following on from the theme of their conversation shows your interest; darting off at tangents may make you look like you're incapable of holding a conversation or you're not interested in what they're saying.
Being polite and following convention makes conversation flow much easier. Having a long, gentle conversation is so much better ( MM ) than a series of brilliant one-liners that don't go any further. Chapter 8 offers tips on how to converse successfully.
Listen more, speak less
Teachers often tell pupils they have two ears and only one mouth and they should use them in that proportion. This advice also applies to making conversation. If you're not listening to what the other person is saying, you won't know how to respond or where to move the conversation to next.
Novice TV presenters often seem to fire out set questions without taking into account great opportunities to expand on interviewees' answers. Practised interviewers, in contrast, seem to effortlessly link one subject to the next by really listening to interviewees' responses.
If you're doing more talking than listening when you meet someone for the first time, you're talking too much.
Research shows that men are more factually orientated and women are more emotionally driven. Salespeople know this, and often use different strategies for selling the same product to different sexes. In any discourse, though, someone is buying and someone is selling, and you need to bear this in mind when thinking of lines of conversation. Knowing what men and women tend to focus on in conversations can help you tailor what you say to the person you're speaking with.
tBEil Making conversation takes two, so don't feel the talking's all your responsibility. Being prepared, however, makes you feel more confident that you won't run out of things to say, which in itself keeps the conversation buoyant. Check out Chapter 8 for tips on good topics to chat about.
Was this article helpful?