Here’s a tip: To enjoy a great conversation, place your focus on the other person.
Be Interested In Him Or Her
Rather than try to be interesting.
While seemingly counterintuitive, paying attention to others and their needs actually makes you interesting.
We tend to be naturally attracted to people who are affectionate to us. It kind of explains why we feel good about someone who smiles at us first (assuming of course, that we don't get freaked out because we are unfortunately reminded of somebody in the past we are squeamish about).
Our past experiences, and that of others, do have an unfair impact on our first impressions of new people. There are some we are just drawn to, simply because they remind us of friends, or people dear to us; and others who just creep us out.
But exceptions aside, if you want great conversations every time, first allow yourself to be attracted to that person. It definitely helps to first equip ourselves with the right attitudes before we even approach.
What's A Right Attitude?
Here is a telephone meditation gatha that I noted down from “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh. I find it helpful to recite this whenever I need a reminder to practice mindful speech:
Words can travel thousands of miles.
May my words create mutual understanding and love.
May they be as beautiful as gems, as lovely as flowers.
His book is written in a gentle tone and I find it really soothing to read. Here are a few more:
- Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering.
- I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope.
- I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure.
The bible also teaches us about right attitudes to carry when we interact with others.
- Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
- Ephesians 5:4: Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
Steps To Practice
Now that I have shared the right attitudes, here are some tangible steps you can take (and practice) to be genuinely interested in others:
- When they are talking to you, pay attention to them. If you can’t comfortably look at people in their eyes, look at their eyebrows. To them, it is probably too subtle to tell.
- Be accepting of things that might seem different from you. Smile, don’t frown. Even if you don’t agree with something, it might just be because you haven’t considered it from another viewpoint before.
- Ask follow-up questions. Get details. Don’t just say “That sounds interesting” without following up with, “So how exactly did you do on so-and-so”. Getting them to elaborate on things instead of speaking in general makes for better conversation.