By Lim Ziqian
Research shows that on average, each of us speaks at least 7,000 words in a day. Of course, depending on whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, that number is up for debate. Still, you get my drift – 7,000 is a lot.
Whether we’re telling someone about the latest meme we saw online, having a discussion about something thought-provoking we saw on the news or simply recounting the better parts of our day to our loved ones, conversations are something we engage in daily.
Yet, perhaps it is precisely because they are so routine that we often take them for granted. Maybe some of us find it difficult to have meaningful discussions with others, especially acquaintances we’ve just met. So, how do we make the most out of our conversations? Read on for some tips and tricks!
1. Listen to what the other person has to say
The number one tip that’s so easily overlooked – just listen! It may sound counterintuitive but I promise you, this isn’t just a tip – it’s a cardinal rule. It’s easy to get carried away in conversations. We’re so excited to bounce a thought off someone, or share a quirky sentiment that we might inadvertently cut the other person off. I know I’m definitely guilty of this and I’m working on it!
It takes two to tango in a conversation. If you’re too caught up in what to say next, you’re potentially missing out on some really insightful talking points by the other person.
Moreover, when we engage in a conversation with someone, what we’re doing simultaneously is building rapport with them. Subtle mannerisms like waiting for your turn before speaking and being truly in tune with what the other person is saying convey respect and care. These things go a long way in allowing your conversation partners to feel seen, heard and respected.
2. Be aware of body language
Building on from the first tip, body language – the unspoken element – speaks volumes. Little, unassuming cues can be powerful indicators of the way people are feeling! Learning how to interpret body language can therefore be a useful skill. Say your friend is suddenly speaking in a sing-song pitch, maybe they have exciting news to share! The stranger you just met doesn’t know what to do with his hands when speaking to you, maybe he’s nervous.
Of course, I’m just generalising here and I’m no shrink – everyone has their own quirky ticks. However, my point is, by learning how to spot and interpret cues, we are better able to respond to our conversation partners appropriately.
Aside from enhancing our interpersonal conversations, responding to people’s body language appropriately is a valuable skill, especially in the workplace.
With that being said, we’ve got to pay attention to our own body language as well! When someone’s speaking, ensure you make eye contact with them because this indicates that they have your attention. Additionally, make sure you aren’t fiddling with your phone! This can be such a mindless yet distracting habit for some of us.
3. Read up more
If you have some extra pockets of time, why not invest in a good book? Not only is it a great way to take a break from the rigour of academia, reading more also builds up your repository of knowledge that might come in handy as conversation starters. Being well-read allows you to contribute more actively in conversations, which is an impressive and admirable trait. You never know when a random tidbit could present itself as great conversation fodder!
Plus, even if it’s not to start a conversation, it’s always nice to know more.
4. Be open and genuine
Meeting and speaking to new people can be daunting, especially when you’re the new friend late into the semester and the group dynamics have already been formed. But you shouldn’t let that deter you from saying hello! Being open-minded and genuine are endearing traits that go a long way.
5. Try to involve everyone
Conversely, it can be pretty intimidating to be in the out-group trying to break in. So the next time you’re with a group of friends and you see an acquaintance struggling to keep up with the conversation, reach out and try to include them! You can gently direct the group’s attention to them if you notice they’re having a hard time being included.
Try asking subtle questions to know more about them or explain the group’s inside joke so they feel more at ease. Little things like this can really go a long way.
Conversations are ways we relate to other people and a way for us to learn more about ourselves, too. More often than not, we tend to take them for granted. If you’ve gotten this far, however, hopefully these primers can pave the way for more meaningful and fulfilling conversations.