How to put your smart phone down and talk …. to anyone
I travel frequently on buses, trains and planes and these days almost everyone has their eyes down, intently focused on their smart phone screen. Including me I’m ashamed to say. As a result, the art of conversation is quickly dying out and social media will surely be renamed anti social media.
Yet when I do have a conversation with a stranger, just sharing a moment in time in a particular place or set of circumstances, it always seems more satisfying than the screen. Whilst there are some people who become totally detached from the outside world and stuck in a dark impenetrable place with their phones, most people will be open to a short and light conversation. Striking up a conversation is relatively easy to do by remembering a few essentials:
You can do it
Anyone can, having a conversation is a human thing to do, but you first need to get in the mindset that you are worthy enough to strike up a conversation.
Open body language
As always it’s a balance. A full-blown grin and over familiar entrance will be guaranteed to put the other person right off before any conversation takes place. Similarly a cold exchange will invite a detached response. A hint of a smile and a pleasant friendly tone provides a warm and non-threatening context.
Be interested not interesting
You don’t have to be interesting but you do have to be interested. It helps if you provide the questions, at least to begin with and to listen to the other person’s responses. The pleasure in this is that you invariably learn something new about the world.
Use the “why” or “how” questions
Whilst the opening line may be more of a comment or confirmation relating to your common situation or circumstances (the heat, the noise etc), the more interesting conversation stems from using a “why or how question” because it generally creates answers based on feelings or motivations, not facts and figures. In contrast, a “what, when or where question” invariably provides a factual answer. Again it’s a balance and you are feeling your way, and as every conversation is different, factual questions may be the way to go in one conversation and not in another.
Listening is the most productive form of conversation because you gain all the advantages such as receiving information, a lack of pressure around thinking of what you are saying next whilst you are talking, and increased rapport with the other person.
So, next time you are intently looking at your screen look around and strike up a conversation and listen and learn. It’s easy to do and can be rich and rewarding.