Conversation is Alive, but Communication is Dying!
Attending some recent dinners, drinkies and events I have begun to realise that true communication between people is dying.
Recently went to a dinner where I met some old friends, and a whole stack of new people. I am always excited at the opportunity to meet new people and to see what they have to say about their lives.
At the end of this event, I was starting to get a bit lower than usual on energy, and I began to think about the conversation at this dinner - and then extrapolate that further out to other social events I have been to recently. It comes as a bit of a shock, but it kind of follows on from my 'everyone is talking and noone is listening' blog! I realised that the only people who was asking others about what they did, what their interests were, and being interested in their stories was us! We didnt talk about what we do at this event because, frankly noone cared!
It seems that people want to talk about weather, illness, government events, and any common demoninator ( such as golf at the golf club) - play it safe, that is it!
But if you do this - how will you ever know if the person you just met has a great idea that you can be involved with, an inspirational dream, a huge life story, has an answer that you have been seeking? How will you even identify if they could be a candidate for friendship?
Social networking is a critical part of life, but I understand that many people miss out on the huge adventure that comes with social networking. Most people do not know how to start conversation and communication with new faces, they hide behind an excuse of shyness. On the internet people reveal incredibly personal information on networks like twitter and facebook, but start to tremble when they walk through a door a face a group of people they do not know!
Well, if this is you - here is the secret key to having interesting social events! Ask open questions of anyone you meet. Open questions are ones that cannot be answered by yes or no, and preferably stay away from 'whats the time?' or 'What day is it?' These kind of questions don't work either :-)
As a question like, 'heyI am John, and I was just admiring your ring, it is an unusual design, what does it represent?' or 'hey I am Julie, and I saw that we share a choice of wines, what do you think of this one?'
It is just like a secret code or key, it unlocks their personal metaphysical front door and they invite you in.
Now sometimes, you get someone who just wants to peek through their front curtains and pretend they are not home, so you will get a dismissive response. Thats OK, until you are accomplished at social networking, you can just glide on past. Most people however, will stop and make time for someone who cares enough to ask a question about them or their lives.
If you are at an event, and have one of those unfortunate tables where noone wants to speak, then try asking a group question like 'Hi, I am Jo and I was reading a book about happiness before I left to come here, and it had some interesting ideas on the different things that make people happy, can I ask ( and look at one of the group) what makes you really smile?' or ' I saw an advertisement for a holiday in France and I was thinking about going, has anyone here done a trip like that?' If questioning the whole group is too tough, then just ask the person next to you!
When you meet new people if you can ask questions, you will find the conversation will quickly flow. When it stops you can just ask another one, possibly an extension of the first.
When you reacquaint with people you have not seen for a period, ask for an update eg 'How are the renovations going?' or 'When I last saw you your son was playing baseball, how is he going?'
Make sure you ask your questions in a polite way, a classic no go zone is a real life example from a recent dinner. My partner was wearing a Ducati shirt, and the lady across the table said ' Do you actually own a Ducati, or did you just save up and buy the shirt?' My partner is a different nationality and culture, to this lady, and he was a little offended. However, the same question could have been phrased as 'What do you like about Ducati?' In this process she could still find out if he owned a Ducati or not, and he would appreciate the interest she shows in him.
You will find you have interesting conversations, that actually touch and communicate with others. They will remember you as an interesting person who cares, and you will discover when you see them again that you recall details of what they told you.
So if you feel you are shy, go places where you do not know anyone and use your secret code, you will be delighted with your new confidence and acquaintances!
You are Amazing - Go and Communicate It!
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