"Well... he's nice ... but I found that no matter what I started talking about, he would somehow make it about him."
"Ya... I enjoy her ... in small doses. She can be pretty sarcastic."
"Sheesh, doesn't it ever occur to her that there are other people in this conversation???"
"There's just something about the way he talks to me that makes me feel sooooo stupid."
I hear comments like these all the time. Apparently talking to each other - which seems like it should be pretty natural - can have a few snags. The good news is that there are some timeless rules that work to ensure a great conversation.
1. Show genuine interest in the person. Seems like a no brainer but it is very easy to communicate disinterest by checking a text as soon as it comes in or letting your eyes wander around the room
2. Focus on positive things. Instead of complaining about your day and all the irritating people in your life, which pulls for them to do the same ... look for some positive things to say. Talk about goals rather than past grievances. Be grateful about something. Of course there will be some negative emotions in an honest conversation, but don't get stuck there.
3. Remember it's a conversation, not a debate. Keep it light and fun or deep and meaningful, but do not pick at things to dispute. Nor is it necessary to come to a conclusion on everything. Allow for the possibility of disagreement in an open-ended and amiable manner. If you have to 'win' or 'agree' on everything, it is not a connecting conversation, it is draining combat.
4. Respect their perspective. It's fine to have an opinion, but do everything you can to share it without criticizing or judging. Try to understand what it's like from their perspective Be open to the fact that they could see things quite differently from where they're standing.
5. Make them feel good. Look for things to say that make a person look and feel good. Give them credit where it is due. Find something to compliment them honestly about. Recognize their talents and accomplishments. We all really enjoy the company of someone who makes us feel good.
6. Ask them questions. Show a genuine interest in who they really are. Rather than asking "what are you doing later?" ask, "what inspired you to make that choice?" Most people soak up the opportunity to share something about themselves with someone who is actually paying attention.
7. Be authentic. Be true to yourself. Your best asset is the 'real' you and so let yourself shine. It's pretty boring to converse with someone who is wearing a concealing mask, who simply agrees with everything, or who simply 'reacts' to whatever is said. If you can't find the 'real' you, make a point of going to therapy.
8. Cut people lots of slack. If they say something distasteful, critical, offensive or inappropriate,... shrug it off. They are having a bad day perhaps. If it keeps on happening, you may choose to limit further conversations with them, but there is no need to 'set them straight' on the spot.
The main thing to remember is that conversations are supposed to be fun or meaningful but not emotionally exhausting. Show genuine interest in the other person and give them the benefit of the doubt. You will find it works for your well being.
If you can't do this... if you (or they) often end up feeling 'crappy'...then get counselling. Find out why and what you need to do differently.
Email me. (firstname.lastname@example.org). I can help.