I have a quirk, an idiosyncrasy, an annoying personality trait. Call it what you will, but I’m a sucker for a good conversation. I channel my dad, who could talk with anybody about anything, and I try my best to live up to that standard. Before I share his secret, I’d like to ask a few tough questions.
Are you sometimes accused of being a “know-it-all?” Do you have an opinion, and a life experience about everything?
Do you frequently get interrupted because you’re doing all the talking?
Do you find yourself offering unsolicited advice?
If you’ve answered “yes,” or even “sometimes” to any of these questions, you might be a 1% conversationalist. But don’t worry — help is on the way.
As a Mediator, I tend to ask my clients a bunch of questions, not only to listen to what they say in response, but also so that I may listen to what they DON’T say. And guess what? I do the same thing (mostly) in my normal day-to-day interactions, whether at a networking event, at a party, or on a date. I find it much more interesting to learn about others than to talk about myself. Yet sometimes I think I’m the only one who’s doing the listening, and the others are 1% conversationalists.
Far too often when I’m getting to know someone new, I walk away thinking that I know a lot about him but he’s asked nothing about me. Even a simple question, such as “where did you go to school?” or “do you have any brothers or sisters?” shows interest and is a jumping-off point for further engagement.
If you’re concerned that you sometimes might be a 1% conversationalist, I’d like to offer a few tools for you to keep in your conversational tool kit. This isn’t rocket science, yet we all could use a little refresher course from time to time.
Tool #1: “How about you?” If you’re asked a question, provide the answer and then follow-up with “how about you?” It’s an easy way to show your interest in the other person. For example, if someone asks where I went to school, I reply “UCLA — and how about you?”
Tool #2: “Tell me more.” Again, you’re showing interest in the other person.
Tool #3: “How can I be of help to you?” This is an exceptionally good question when getting to know someone in a business situation. Just be sure you’re not offering something that you won’t be able to deliver.
Not that I keep score, but I think the conversational give and take has to be more than 99% to 1%. Don’t you agree?
And now for my dad’s secret: he frequently used to say that we have two ears and one mouth, so it makes perfect sense to listen twice as much as we speak. You can do the math for me, but I’m pretty sure it comes out to more than 1%.