The prevalence of screens in today’s society is fantastic. However, along with the ease of living that our widespread adoption of technology has provided, it has also impinged upon our ability to connect with one another in the most important area, that being our physical world. Many people understand how to send texts back and forth, and are well versed in the etiquette of Facebook messages. Fewer and fewer people seem to be able to talk in person now though. Perhaps this is the natural way of the world, and soon we’ll all be texting as opposed to talking at all, but that’s not likely. We’re currently undergoing a technological teething period, and we need to figure out how to adapt to this digital age socially. There are high rates of loneliness globally, and this isolation is hurting us physically as well as mentally. With this in mind, here’s a quick guide on how to connect socially.
The first thing to realize is that everyone loves to talk about themselves, it feels good obtaining validation from others. With this in mind, do everything possible to avoid doing so. In order to have a fantastic conversation, it’s important to allow your conversational partner to talk as much as possible, and to continue prompting them for as long as possible. Provide them the validation they desire in order to engender a positive impression of you in them. Ask about their opinions, provide observations about what they’re saying and see how they respond.
If this reaches a dead end in the conversation, and they aren’t willing to keep talking any more. Perhaps they’ve gone quiet and are only responding with sullen monosyllables to your questions, then provide examples from your own life. Try to keep your experiences as similar to theirs as possible, but realize that no matter how similar they are that the person you’re talking to has likely had an entirely different experience than you. A good way of doing this is to say something like ‘that reminds me of the time x happened, which made me feel really y, did you react a similar way?’ this weights the conversation more evenly, provides them with an impression of you, and prompts them to talk again.
Be a supportive conversationalist. If the person you’re talking to has succeeded in certain areas, be sure to commend them on their successes. Always take the role of student and try to learn as much from the person you’re talking to as possible. Everyone has lessons that can be crystallized from their experiences, and the more of these that you’re able to hear, the more you’ll be an effective individual. Once you find something that the person you’re talking to is passionate about, keep prompting them, the rewards for this are endless for you and them.
Being a supportive conversationalist has another large part as well though, that’s not being competitive. If you feel the desire to talk down to someone, and to talk big about yourself, don’t. This is a surefire way of ensuring that those you talk to will feel uncomfortable and try to avoid you in future. Realize that you are an amazing person already, and that there’s no need to obtain validation by bludgeoning others with your achievements. Instead, when the inevitable awkward silences do arrive, and you fill them with your own experiences, speak humbly about yourself and realize how much luck has helped you arrive at where you are today. Give thanks to those who helped you and demonstrate your awareness that you are not the greatest thing since sliced bread, rather you’re just another Average Joe, who may have experienced some odd situations.
It is important to be able to talk about yourself, and about your opinions, in this equivocal manner. Otherwise when awkward silences arrive you either won’t be comfortable filling them with your own words, or when you do fill them with your own words it’ll sound like Kanye West touting how fantastic he is at an awards ceremony. In either case, the person you’re talking to will quickly make their excuses before leaving.
Talking is a skill that most people consider to be almost second nature, the kind of thing you don’t have to work at because it comes naturally. The truth is that you can always get better at it. By working at employing the techniques listed here, you’ll be much better placed to enjoy far more engaging discussions.
Written by Marcomms Intern, Jack Seaberry.