Step-by-step to get the conversation going.
...a little hand holding can go along way.
You've heard of Active Listening, but have you heard of Motivational Listening? The goal of Motivational Listening is for your Fellow Human, the speaker, to exit the conversation feeling better about themselves than when they entered. Motivational Listening is a defined process to connect with another person, aka the speaker, by intentionally building rapport quickly, even with those we have never met.
Motivational Listening is similar to "Active Listening" in that it involves paying attention, avoiding distractions, monitoring your body language, and audible clues to indicate you are participating in the conversation. But Motivational Listening takes it one step further with the main goal of truly recognizing your Fellow Human and making them feel remarkable.
HOW DO YOU DO THAT?
You may find yourself in a situation where you are eager to meet a new human, whether that is in a long line at a coffee shop, waiting at the bus stop, or at a party of strangers. Here are five steps to getting a conversation going.
Step 1: Use body language that makes you approachable
Body language is a big communicator and it is the easiest to understand. As you initiate contact, be mindful of how you are communicating with your gestures, expressions, and mannerism. Be sure to give a sincere smile, stand with uncrossed arms, and give eye contact. So without saying anything, you have the opportunity to set them at ease with your body language, in turn giving others the visual cue that you are friendly.
Step 2: Gauge if a someone is open to talking.
Remember your Fellow Human is just like you. They may feel a bit awkward at first with someone they do not know. But your approach will open the opportunity to make an introduction feel natural. So be aware of their situation, their tone and their body language before approaching. If you do decide to engage, allow them to move comfortably into a conversation by being open, sincere and positive with both your introduction and body language.
Step 3: Begin with an open-ended question.
When it comes to your introduction, you need to be a little unexpected, yet not "over-the-top", and have something that fits within your personality. Most of us start with the standard question "How are you?" But instead, ask a question that will cause your Fellow Human to pause and ponder the question and elicit an answer that's longer than one or two words. So asking a sincere question about the situation that you are both in is a good place to start and if it's sincere, the interaction will feel more natural. Yes, they may just give you a quick response, but you've opened them up and now you can follow up by asking them something about themselves.
Take note, keep the questions away from something personal – how they feel or what they think. We want to understand their environment; what is going on in their workplace, home life, and hobbies. You want to keep the question open to their interpretation, and let them set the direction for the content of your discussion to follow, one which you will guide as a Motivational Listener.
Step 4: Repeat their answers.
In response to your opening question, if they mention an occupation, their role in an organization, a geographic location, relationship, or other item of context, verify and validate what you heard by repeating them.
“Ah, so you’re a CPA”
“Your son just got married! Congratulations”
“You are new to the area”
There are many responses you will get, and they are all part of the context of their life. You will give a brief statement to let them know you have listened to what they were saying—staying clear of any unsolicited advice or one-upping their story. And here you rely on your emotional intelligence based on their response to your summary – if you get it wrong, let them correct you and repeat the validation. Of course, you're not saying anything new, but you are giving the impression that you're listening, appreciating what they have to say and creating rapport, in turn allowing them to feel comfortable to share more on that specific topic.
Step 5: Make them the center of attention
At this point we are taking them on a journey back from where they are to where they started. Where ever someone is today, they were someplace before that…no matter how long ago. They may be brand new to the area or job, or have some long-term tenure in what they do. Each of these is an opportunity to learn more. For instance, they have just mentioned they are an accountant, teacher, business owner, and you verified your understanding. Now, ask them how long they have been in that role.
As you receive answers to your questions, you become an investigator as more opportunities to ask them about their path will open up. Our intention with this series of questions is to allow them to remember the journey of their life, the series of steps and choices they have taken. Because you have allowed them to do most of the talking, they will more likely remember the interaction with you as enjoyable because humans go, we ultimately love talking about ourselves.
Learn more great advice by checking out D. Scott Smith's book "Motivational Listener"
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