Conversation: A Powerful Tool for the Ambitious
Being good at conversation is one of the most important and useful skills that you will use throughout your life. Your relationship with others will influence your future more than anything else in the world. A good conversation with the right person can change your life. Consider the following scenarios:
- Meeting a new friend at school
- Getting interviewed for a job
- Going on your first date with a beautiful stranger
- Getting advice from your teacher
- Chatting to a man in a suit on the train
- Helping your daughter with trouble at school
These are just a few possible situations where your conversation ability can alter the course of your life forever. After all:
- Your new friend is a popular future comic book artist. You get a job as a voice actor thanks to him.
- You meet the future inventor of history’s first human-like AI at your new job. Later, it asks you the meaning of life.
- You marry the woman of your dreams. She becomes the first person to tell you she is proud of you.
- Your teacher tells you the honest truth: he doesn’t like teaching in schools. You decide to become an freelance author and interpreter instead of an English teacher.
- The man is the CEO of a local, rival business. In a drunken slur, he tells you his business secrets.
- Thanks to your advice, your daughter has a great conversation with a boy she really likes. She stays all night at the hospital while you are in critical condition following a car accident.
You don’t know the future. Your next conversation could be the most important one of your life.
It probably won’t be.
But it could be.
Tip 1: Your future depends on your conversation abilities.
However, many people find conversations difficult. This guide will teach you some basic strategies for getting to know a stranger, keeping a conversation alive and interesting, and leaving a good impression.
Why do we talk to each other?
First, it’s important to think about the different goals we have when we talk to others. We might have a conversation to:
- Exchange information
- Make a plan
- Feel connected
- Make friends
- Find love
- Be polite
- Avoid awkward silence
Why is it important to understand why people talk? Because your goal when talking to someone effects your conversation strategy.
In fact, it’s important to understand the goal you and others have for a conversation. If you want love, but your conversation partner wants to complain, you may become frustrated. Many life problems happen as a result of conversation goals that are out of sync.
If you want love, but your conversation partner wants to sell you something, you’re gonna have a bad day.
Tip 2: Know your conversation partner’s goal.
Successful people are known for preferring positive conversation topics. Why? Because they understand the power of positive conversations.
Attracting the right kind of people
The things we talk about attract certain kinds of people and repel others. If you brag a lot, you will repel most people. Even worse, you will attract people that will try to steal your thunder: other braggers!
It’s okay to brag, but in moderation. Ambitious people brag with laser focus and purpose. Losers brag indiscriminately in bars; Winners brag in job interviews. Losers pile bragging on top of bragging; Winners lightly salt their conversations with bragging for flavor.
Similarly, ambitious people avoid complaining. Complain once to a friend? That’s called “venting”. Complain everyday to everybody? That’s called “being annoying”. And what kind of people will you attract? That’s right, other annoying people that want to complain about their insignificant problems.
What if you focus on keeping your conversations positive?
You will attract positive people to you. You’ll also feel more inspired after a nice, positive conversation with another ambitious person like yourself. Ambitious people are inspired by other ambitious people. A positive conversation will leave you and your conversation partner feeling energized and optimistic about the future.
As a nice bonus, your conversation partner will think you are an interesting person.
Tip 3: Keep your conversations positive.
The most successful people avoid bragging. Instead, they prefer to give other people opportunities to brag. Why?
People like to talk about themselves
It can be difficult to think of things to talk about with other people, especially strangers. However, most people are uncomfortable with silence. On our first date, I and a woman took a train together. We sat next to each other on the train. Most of the time, she was looking at her phone. She didn’t seem interested in me. I wasn’t sure what to say, but I wanted to say something. I didn’t like the silence.
Fortunately, once we sat down at a cafe, she was very interested in talking.
What did we talk about? Well, one of the reasons people like to talk about themselves is because it’s easy. If you are with a nice lady in a cafe, silence feels very uncomfortable. We both really wanted to avoid silence. So, to make it easy for her to talk, I asked her about herself. It was very easy for her to answer my questions because she knows the most about herself.
I listened closely while she talked about her work, her life, etc. She was a freelance photographer. That sounds interesting, right? That’s another reason why people like to talk about themselves: they can tell you how great they are.
Remember what I said about bragging? Many people want to brag. It feels good to brag. However, most people don’t brag because they know other people hate it. When I asked her questions about herself, it was like I asked her, “Please brag.” By asking her about herself, I gave her a chance to brag. I gave her a chance to feel good about herself.
Tip 4: Give your conversation partner many opportunities to talk about themselves.
Getting to know a stranger
You now know some guiding principles for making interesting conversations. You are ready for the next step: learning some basic questions for getting to know a stranger. They are:
- What’s your name?
- Where do you live?
- Do you have a family?
- What do you do for a living?
- Do you have any hobbies/sports?
- Do you have any travel plans?
When you are getting to know a stranger, your goal is to find something in common. Do they come from the same town as you? What is their family situation? Do they like the same hobbies? What are their plans for the future? Once you find something in common, it’s usually easy to continue the conversation for a while.
Tip 5: Find something in common.
Now that you know some basics, let’s think of some conversation scenarios.
Getting to know a stranger
Mike: Hi, my name’s Mike.
Scott: Hey, Mike, I’m Scott.
Mike: Where are you from Scott?
Scott: I’m from New York. How about you?
Mike: I’m from Washington.
How about you? is one of the most useful expressions you can know. Anytime you want to ask someone a question they just ask you, you can say How about you?
You can use How about you? by itself if your answer is short. If you have a long answer, then you probably can’t use How about you? In that case, you will repeat the question you were asked. Take a look at the next scenario.
Scenario 2: Catching up
You often need to “catch up” with someone after not seeing them for some time. The most common time people “catch up” is on Monday, after the weekend is over.
Ryusei: Good morning, John.
John: Morning, Ryusei. How was your weekend?
How was ____? is a very useful expression.
How was Okinawa?
How was school today?
How was your Christmas?
How was your vacation?
How was English class?
Ryusei: Oh, it was pretty good. I went to a concert in Osaka.
John: Oh, that’s nice. How was the concert?
Ryusei: It was great! I had a lot of fun.
John: That sounds nice.
Ryusei: How about you? How was your weekend?
Because the answer was a little long, Ryusei had to repeat John’s question back to him. If he didn’t, then John would be a little confused at first.
Getting more details
Like I wrote before, talking like an interesting person is mostly about getting other people to talk about themselves. You can ask them questions about a variety of topics, but usually, you want to ask for me detail. Consider the following scenario.
Tsubasa: Hey, Ryusei! John told me you went to a concert in Osaka over the weekend.
Ryusei: Yeah, I did.
Tsubasa: Who did you go to see?
Ryusei: It was a band called Dragonforce.
Tsubasa: Dragonforce? What kind of band are they?
Ryusei: They’re a power metal band. Their music is really exciting.
Tsubasa: Wow, you like metal music? So do I!
Ryusei: Oh, really? What’s you favorite metal band?
Tsubasa: I like Babymetal.
Ryusei: Ah, Babymetal.
Tsubasa asked Ryusei some more details about his trip to Osaka. I think she is more interested in Ryusei’s trip than John was. What do you think?
This conversation could go on for a long time. Tsubasa can ask a lot more questions.
- When did you get into metal music?
- Do you like any other metal bands?
- Do you like any other kinds of music?Which Dragonforce song do you like?
- What’s Dragonforce’s most famous song?
- What was the concert like?
- Did you go alone?
- How long did you stay in Osaka?
- Did you do any sightseeing?
- Did you buy any souvenirs?
- Did you do anything else while you were there?
Tsubasa will ask the questions that are most interesting to her. If the music is interesting to her, she’ll ask about that. If traveling is more interesting, she’ll ask about that. Either way, Tsubasa will make Ryusei feel important and interesting.
In future posts, I’ll teach some more ways to talk like an interesting person.