Forget the small talk! If you want to get to know someone, you need to master the art of a full-on conversation! Dr. Edward de Bono is the authority on creative thinking who’s taught classes at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard. And he says conversations are often dull because they consist of simple subjects like the weather and sports. But de Bono says you don’t have to be a world traveler or president of Toastmasters to be a fascinating conversationalist. Here are some of his tips for making your discussions more dynamic, courtesy of the Bottom Line Personal.
- Find new twists on standard openers. Asking “What do you do?” is fine, but follow up with more stimulating questions about the person’s job, like “What’s the biggest misconception people have about your line of work?”. Also, be prepared to answer the same question in an interesting way. Think about what people have found most interesting about YOUR job. For example: “Most people are surprised to learn that...” – and fill in the blank.
- Explore points of difference. When we disagree with someone on a subject, we typically try to convince them to see things our way.
Or else we clam up in order to be agreeable. But fascinating conversationalists do something different. They explore points of difference with other people. So, let’s say you get into a discussion about whether “The Departed” should have won the Oscar for best picture. Instead of trying to change the other person’s mind, make an effort to understand why they have the opposite opinion. A good phrase to remember is, “What you said is interesting. Tell me how you arrived at that conclusion.”
- To be a great conversationalist: Learn to listen. This not only respectful, but it makes the discussion more interesting. You’re not likely to learn anything new when you’re the one doing the talking. So periodically recap what you heard with the phrase “It sounds as though you’re saying. ” dot, dot, dot. This acknowledges the speaker and keeps you genuinely tuned-in to the conversation.