Community//

Three little words that will make you a great conversationalist

It was an ordinary exchange–two women waiting in a long line, chatting to offset the boredom. I initiated the conversation, asking the woman behind me if she shopped there often. One simple question yielded a mother lode of information about her. She was, I learned, new to the neighborhood, Polish on both sides of her […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

It was an ordinary exchange–two women waiting in a long line, chatting to offset the boredom. I initiated the conversation, asking the woman behind me if she shopped there often. One simple question yielded a mother lode of information about her. She was, I learned, new to the neighborhood, Polish on both sides of her family, a teacher of computer skills at two local high schools, married to the dean of a local college, the mother of three boys, about to retire soon, a former researcher, recently returned from a trip to Aruba, a chocolate aficionada, and so on.

The line had been steadily inching forward and the cashier was now scanning my items. And so, my partner-in-line ended the chat with these words: “Well, it was nice talking to you.” Except, I reflected, she had done all the talking. I had learned enough about her for a Wikipedia entry and yet, she knew nothing about me.

A RULE FOR INTERPERSONAL EXCHANGES

A supermarket chat like this is inconsequential, of course. But other dialogues can have a serious impact on the way others regard you. There’s a simple rule that will help ensure you are favorably regarded: It’s the 50/50 rule. Whether the setting is business, social, in-person or on the telephone, the rule asks that you spend about half the time in the exchange listening and the other half speaking. You can easily assess how well you are doing by setting a timer and then tape-recording the conversation. (Let the other person know what you are doing and why.) Then go back and see if you dominated the conversation by taking more than your share of time. Or, count the number of sentences each of you has spoken during that time.

Another way to see if you are following the rule: Ask a trusted friend to assess you unobtrusively sometime within the next few weeks. He or she will set a timer and then see if you occupied more than half the time talking.

Having made yourself aware of the need to share the conversational stage, you will be able to self-monitor as well.

THOSE THREE LITTLE WORDS

Once you’ve expounded, opined, or shared information about yourself, turn to the other person as ask, “How about you?” That is your invitation for the person to do his or her own expounding, opining, or sharing of information.

Of course, there are variations on the phrase. You could show your interest in what they have to say by asking, “What about you? How do you feel about this?” Or, “Now, tell me about you.” Or, “Are your experiences similar to what I’ve just described?” There are untold ways to show you’d like to hear from the other person, to show that you are sincerely interested in his or her point of view.

IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU

The recognition that listening and speaking are conversational co-partners is perhaps best shown by a lady in England whose name history failed to record. She moved in London’s upper circle, though. And so, she had the good fortune to dine on two occasions with well-known leaders. First, she dined with Gladstone. Then, with his political arch rival Disraeli.

Asked to compare the two, she gave this response. “When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the most clever man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the most clever woman in England.”

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

3 Lessons from My Mother, That Are Serving Me During This Pandemic

by Reyzan Shali
Wisdom//

5 Ways to Assess the Needs of Your Customer From the Greek Goddess Demeter, The Primordial Mother

by Rena Cohen-First
Harris Faulker and family
Community//

‘Everything Has a Filter:’ FOX News’ Harris Faulkner Speaks On Mental Health for Her Children and Consumers During 2020’s Scariest Pandemic

by Andrew L. Rossow, Esq.

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.