– Kalina Silverman,
How to Have Better Conversations – Skip the Small Talk –
The quality of your life depends on the quality of your questions. This is a fact that holds true not only in your personal life but in your career as well.
With better quality questions, your life and your relationships—with your partner, friends, family members, coworkers, and strangers—will move from a shallow surface where many people remain to a depth of connectedness where the true journey between you and the person you are conversing with begins.
If you merely stick to small talk—the weather, a recent TV show, gossip, etc., you can’t establish that deeper connection because, for one, you aren’t learning anything about each other, and secondly, you aren’t growing in any way closer together or as individuals.
Studies have shown a direct link to greater happiness in your life when you have higher quality conversations. And to have higher quality conversations, we must ask more quality questions, which mainly include personal questions.
Now, in all honesty, what does it mean to have a meaningful conversation? As Kalina Silverman, founder of Big Talk, puts it during our interview:
“A meaningful conversation is one that skips the small talk.
It means that you are asking an open-ended question and raising a discussion from someone’s personal experience, asking someone a question about a story from their life or their passions based on who they are as a person.
Not something external that anyone can answer. “
Now, questions, while they are a crucial part in a conversation, aren’t the only important components that matter and that you need to get better at asking. In the interview, Kalina touches upon various other ways to have better conversations. Here are three additional golden rules to take to heart so you can dramatically increase the depth of your future conversations.
1. Don’t Multi-task, be Present. Focus on the Conversation
The myth that women can multi-task and men can’t is not true. The truth is, neither of us are good at this. Enough studies have shown that our brains aren’t designed to be good at multi-tasking.
What that underscores in terms of conversations is that you simply won’t have a good conversation if you are trying to listen and occupied with something else at the same time, for instance, if you are also on your phone, working your laptop, preoccupied with your thoughts on something else, etc.
Listening is something that must be done actively, not passively. Meaning, if you truly want to understand someone, you need to keep your full attention on them. If your attention is only half on the conversation because you are checking your phone at the same time, no true connection can be established as you aren’t fully in the moment.
Also, referring in particular to phones, that device many of us have a bit too often in our hands or within reach, research has found that simply having a mobile device within easy reach already divides your attention, even if you’re not actively looking at it.
In the study, it was found that conversations in the absence of mobile communication technologies were rated as significantly superior compared with those in the presence of a mobile device, above and beyond the effects of age, gender, ethnicity, and mood.
So, put your phone away when you are in a conversation! No, not on the table, but in your pocket or bag, so you can put your full attention into what’s happening at the moment: the conversation.
People appreciate it enormously when they feel the other person is fully in the conversation. It honestly doesn’t feel nice when a person with whom you are sharing something suddenly decides to take a look at a text message they have just received. It breaks the connection completely, and it makes you, the other person, feel you matter less than their phone.
I am sure it has happened to you. If you can’t remember this happening to you, pay attention when you are in your next conversation, and notice when it happens how it makes you feel and how much lower the quality of the conversation becomes.
Don’t multi-task. Be fully present with the person you are speaking with and notice how much deeper your conversations will become.
2. Remember Names
From the famed book, “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, the sweetest things you can tell a person is their name.
Remembering the name of a person is such an important factor for more reasons than many people realize. For one, it makes people feel they are important to you if you remember their name. Secondly, when you use the name of someone you have just met for the first few times, it directly helps create a comfort level and a more familiar relationship.
Also, by remembering someone’s name and using it when you see them again, that person will feel important and respected. People appreciate if you use their name when you first greet them, such as saying, “It’s nice to see you again, John.”
To have better conversations, applying this simple-sounding yet oh-so-important piece of advice will greatly improve the quality of your future conversations.
Being acknowledged is an important factor in many peoples’ lives. Remembering names and using it in your conversations makes the person you are talking with feel acknowledged as you remembered the sweetest thing you can call a person—their name.
3. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
“You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you.” The only way to make quality, lasting friendships is to learn to be genuinely interested in people and their interests.
How wonderful does it not feel when someone shows interest in something you have a deep love and passion for?
I can tell you right now: it feels wonderful.
We love to feel important, and so does everyone else. People will talk to us for hours if we allow them to talk about themselves. If we are sincere and appreciative with others and make them feel important, our relationships with our partner, friends, family members, and strangers will significantly deepen.
Let’s say you are talking to someone who dropped a hint that he or she draws a lot.
Instead of saying “Oh, that’s nice,” ask them more about it! How long have they been doing it? Where do they get their inspiration? Are they currently working on something? Can they show you any work of theirs?
If you show genuine interest and encourage the other person to talk more about something they care about, you’ll not only get to know them at a deeper emotional level, you’ll also make the other person feel more relaxed and comfortable in your presence.
Likewise, if you can take on a curious mindset, you’ll come to learn so many new things about a certain topic you may never have learned anything about if you didn’t encourage another person to talk about one of their interests.
What typically happens is that: the more you allow them to talk about themselves, the more interesting you essentially become.
Give these words of advice a try, and put them into practice. Even if you only master one rule out of this list or from the interview, you will start to notice a dramatic shift in the quality of your future conversations and the deeper connections you establish with others through them.
EP 016 – “How to Have Better Conversations,”
with Kalina Silverman, Founder of Big Talk
Subscribe and listen to The Inner Picture Stories Podcast on your favorite platform!
Some of the Questions I Ask:
- – How would you define, or describe what a meaningful or deep conversation is about, and what it looks like?
- – What are some of the fears you’ve discovered most people have in terms of why they don’t move to the big talk?
- – Is there some kind of mindset or thought that is going on in your head when you approach or talk with a stranger?
- – What have you come to discover are some of the fears most people have in terms of why they don’t move to the big talk?
What You Will Learn from this Episode:
- – Why listening is such a critical part of having more meaningful conversations
- – How to maintain a meaningful conversation with someone you don’t like or disagree with
- – How fiction books can help improve your empathy
- – How to move from the small talk to big talk conversations
You may also like these episodes:
- – The 5-Bullet Point Episode (EP’s 11– 15)
- – 6 Heartwarming True Hero Stories – The IPS Positive News Stories
- – EP 014 – How Your Thoughts Create Your Life – The Power of Positive Psychology
Question about this episode: Which one of the skills on how to have better conversations, either here, from the show notes, or the interview did you like the most and why?
Did you enjoy this episode?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Your Voice Matters!
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