Do you see yourself as a good conversationalist? A lot of my clients worry that they’re not good at making conversation and stress about what to say in networking situations or when they show up for a video call early.
The good news is, you don’t have to be the one who always brings the chat. And often the people who are remembered as the best conversationalists are the ones who are the best listeners.
Effective conversations are all about creating touch points – the bright sparks that trigger and enliven a fulfilling conversation. You can think about these touch points as though they were layers in an iceberg, with the surface layer representing the most accessible and safest touch points and the deeper layers representing the thoughts and feelings hidden beneath the surface.
Because every person is different, conversations can be had at different levels. It is important to adopt an open and flexible approach, respect the level at which they would like to converse and have a broad range of topics to share. I’ve identified a range of conversational touch points that you can access to ignite a conversation:
Level 1: Scene setting. You’re just opening the conversation, these are light topics that need time to warm the flow of conversation. Jumping from here to quite direct questions could put off your conversationalist counterpart.
Bridging Unless your purpose is to create surface level rapport, there will come a time to move the conversation along. An effective way is bridging – highlighting any common ground that you may share and steers the conversation in that direction.
Level 2: Surface grazing. You may now already know more about the person, their likes, dislikes, or hobbies and vocation. This is the time to scene set and provide the substance for the conversation.
Level 3: Moving to a deeper level of conversation should be initiated with care. Whereas one person will be ready to have a profound conversation the first time you meet, another will be less inclined to veer from the surface level. The courage to reveal yourself at a deeper level may alienate some, however it may be the factor that differentiates you from the crowd and contributes most to your gravitas.