Albert Mehrabian, professor at the University of California reported that to be truly congruent in the art of conversing, 55% comes from gesticulation/body language, 38% tonality but only 7% from the words.
Yet, how do we spend most of our time communicating? Emails, messages and text, we are losing the art of conversing!
What stops us from going up and simply talking to someone? Sometimes it is fear of saying the wrong thing, being rejected or ignored. Often, within reason, it is not so much what you say as how you come across.
Confidence is a massive factor and this is portrayed in the way we hold ourselves (55%), the manner in which we speak (38%) and finally the words we use (7%). Think of how you engage with friends or family when you are relaxed and how you laugh and relate with them.
Starting a conversation can feel quite daunting if your usual approach is to wait for someone else to instigate it. Confidence is the key and those who know me will recognise the fact that I have no problem with events, such as weddings or business networks, going up to a complete stranger to engage in a chat.
Consider the following:
- Question don’t announce – Begin the conversation by using ‘open’ questions. “Hi, you know James then do you” will generally result in Yes/No reply whereas, “Hi, nice to meet you, so how do you know James?” will open the conversation. Closed questions start with anything that will result in a singular worded answer. Open questions normally start with what, how, why that requires expansion in their reply.
- Humour works – Relaxed introduction of funny quips works well. We all like to laugh (mind you, if that person over there doesn’t, best avoid them!). Let things flow from the conversation and add anecdotes appropriately rather than memorising gags such as Tim Vine “I’ve decided to sell my Hoover – it was just collecting dust”, (I do like that though!)
- Show Interest – First and foremost, people like talking about their situation so be personable. Show interest in them and base your questions around things they will know, eg. Ask how they know James. Remember, this is not an interrogation so avoid drilling them with questions, ergo, a conversation sets sail.
- Mutuality – The conversation is neither all about them nor you. You will never be able to rehearse the perfect conversation as it is a two way situation. Approach with the ‘we’ as opposed to ‘I’ scenario when it comes to what the subject matter may be and wonder what they will talk about. This change in mindset makes conversations much easier as transferable onus is on them momentarily until the banter starts.
- Power of smiling – This may not help the crows-feet but I’d rather walk around with a smile on my face than not. Therefore, refrain from looking in horror at the person or group as if they are the main character in Jaw’s but remember this is a social interaction. You radiate warmth with a smile so let it hover naturally and when the other party talks, let your eyes and mouth smile, embrace them.
- Taking it personally – Remember, others may be in a similar situation with confidence issues. They may have an agenda that does not include talking to you. Whatsoever the case, let it be their problem and not yours! Take on board all the ideas here and whatever the outcome, do not take it personally.
- Less is more – Have you experienced someone giving you too many details, like how their car broke down from pick up through to technical fault. Did you feel obliged to listen? Had they simply stated they put the wrong fuel in and what a headache it caused them, we would be more interested. Brevity is the key. Keep your points succinct and refrain from including all the details, just those that are relevant to the tale.
We hide behind electronic devices and all too often I see people standing uncomfortably corners of the room, so much so, I feel architects will soon be designing dodecagon rooms so more can find a corner!
Practise makes perfect and the more you stretch yourself, the easier it becomes to recognising signs that people are open to engage in conversation.
Coaching to success use tools to explore peoples’ preferred styles such as MBTI, John Heron and Belbin then methods to help with confidence so should you or someone you know want to benefit with a direct approach, see how relaxed I am in conversation by watching our video at https://youtu.be/RvCwOL4hPco then contact Neil on 07761 187238 or email firstname.lastname@example.org where you’ll be assured a warm welcome to discuss how we can help.