The Million Dollar Mouthpiece
The ability to hold an engaging conversation with a complete stranger might be one of the most important life skills you can develop. It is a skill that not many possess, but many wish they had. Few people understand the subtleties involved with it. I used to struggle with conversations in the past.
I remember the painful awkward silences that would ensue due to my lack of conversational skills. The many missed opportunities… So how can one develop the million dollars mouthpiece? Well, the answer might surprise you.
A good conversationalist understands the importance of listening. Many people falsely assume that in order to have a good conversation, they must constantly talk. People get too stuck in their heads trying to think of the next thing to say. They get stifled looking for the right words.
Change the focus to being mindful during the conversation. Give the other person your full attention when they are speaking. Doing this allows you to pick up the ‘threads’ of the conversation. What are the threads? Well, when someone talks they usually mention a range of things that you can use in order to navigate the direction of the conversation. I will give you an example:
Case Study: The bus stop
Guy: Wow, is this bus always this late?
Girl: Yeah, I got to the library late last week because of it.
The first part of the dialogue only has one thread which you can expand. The girl mentioned that she was late for the library. The library is your new topic to pursue, once opening a thread you must ask an open ended question ( a question that demands more than just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer).
Guy: Uhh the library? What are you a student, or writer, or something? Girl: Yes I am a student; I’m studying psychology at the University of Amsterdam. The girl’s response opened up three threads. The potential topics that you can discuss are:
• Things associated with the student life
• Things associated with psychology
• University of Amsterdam
At this stage, you can give your own experience on the subject matter or ask another open ended question. For example one of the below:
1. Student life is expensive these days, how do you cope?
2. What inspired you to study psychology?
3. What is the vibe like at your university?
Let’s go with question 2.
Guy: What inspired you to study psychology?
Girl: I have always been interested in the mind, especially of serial killers. When I was younger I used to watch a lot of crime investigation documentaries. I have always wanted to know, what makes people tick I guess.
Bingo, the open ended question has now lead you to open up many new threads. From here you can talk about:
• The mind and how complicated it is
• Serial killers, what makes someone snap?
• Documentaries you have watched
Remember, you can always navigate the conversation to previous topics uncovered in earlier threads whenever you want. You can always say:
‘Previously you mentioned – enter previous thread-“ this is an option best left for when your current thread is losing some heat.
People love their own voices, give it to them
As you can see, following this framework it’s very easy to keep a conversation going on forever. What you have to understand is that people are primarily concerned with themselves. People love the sounds of their own voices. If you can allow them to express themselves while being present to the moment, they will love you for it.
I have had conversations with all kinds of people, often with people who do not share any similarities with me. I, however, am able to connect with them because of a deep understanding of this basic framework. There have been times in the past when I have said maybe two sentences within a conversation and allowed the other person to speak. To my surprise, these people would always remind me about the “deep, and insightful”, the conversation we had. Master this skill if you really want people to love you, and if you want to open up opportunities for yourself.