5 Hacks to become a great conversationalist

5 Hacks to become a great conversationalist.

Networking is a contact sport, as Dr Ivan Misner, founder of BNI once famously quoted. Being a ‘contact sport’, means you’re going to need to engage with other people and that means conversations. Learn these 5 conversation hacks and you’ll build your network be it social or professional, with ease and speed

Let me start by giving away one of my all-time great conversational secret hacks I’ve been using for 30+ years. I learnt this secret many years ago when I was just out of university and learning how to sell. I was selling timeshare during the Summer holidays and NOTHING teaches you how to sell like working in that environment. But I digress.

The first thing we were taught to do selling timeshare was to ask a lot of open-ended questions. I had just finished my undergrad psychology degree, so of course I ‘knew everything’ about everything and was eager to put some of my newfound psychology skills into practice. One of the things I really enjoyed learning at university was body language and use the power of non-verbal communication in building rapport. I won’t go into the science of it, but we spent a lot of time learning the impact this has on groups and individuals and it’s an extremely fascinating area of psychology.

Having learnt in time share sales to ask questions, I decided to add on my knowledge of body language. One of the easiest skills to master is mirroring which in short is to ‘copy’ a person’s body postures and effectively ‘mirror’ them. Never mirror bad body language such as crossed arms or a confrontational posture, but by mirroring someone you build rapport quickly. The trick is to do this naturally, you’ll need to practice this because it can come across as forced or disingenuous which people pick up on quickly. Try it with your friends and family first and google the concept to learn more.

Years later I learnt the DISC profile model which is essentially a way of quickly placing people into one of 4 personality types. Without going into the DISC model, people are effectively Direct types, Socialiser, Relators or Thinkers (DISC calls them Dominant Influence Steadiness Conscientious). Having learnt DISC modelling, you can also match the persons style of language, the tone of their conversation, the volume they speak at and of course the speed at which they speak.

So, the first 3 ‘hacks’ are:

1. Ask open ended questions
2. Mirror body language
3. Ascertain personality and match their language style

There are two more ‘hacks’ to add, but I’ll come to these later, they’ll take your conversational powers to new levels.

Adding the 3 of these together is a very powerful technique, done properly you will become a very interesting person, because what do we as humans love more than anything to tak about? Ourselves!

Let me tell you a story. Last month I went to a training session for a new professional association I have recently joined. I knew very few people and the people I did know were off doing their own thing at breaks, so I needed to sit with complete strangers at lunch and during the coffee session. I managed to meet quite a few new people and really enjoyed talking to them. I actually didn’t do too much of the talking, I really just listened and asked a lot of questions. In part I did this because most of the people at the event were much more experienced than me and I wanted to learn from them what they knew about the subject we were learning about.

At the end of the day the facilitator of the group came up to me and said that a number of people had told him how interesting I was and that it was really great to have me as part of the group now and they were looking forward to having me participate in the future. The part I should have added at the beginning was that this group of people are highly paid industry leaders with a lot of ego – which is appropriate for the work they do. The facilitator was surprised and wanted to know what I’d said and done with everyone to garner that response. I answered that I simply asked questions and was interested in what they had to say.

I found this rather fascinating. I was actually quite intimidated by this group of people, I have very little experience by comparison and don’t think I’m all that interesting by comparison. But I was interested in them and I did ask a lot of really good open-ended questions. The outcome was that I made myself seem more interesting to these people – I’d used the first 3 conversation hacks and the outcome was that I was accepted into this group as a peer and an interesting one at that when in fact I’d hardly even talked about myself at all – 95% of my time was deliberately spent on learning about the other people in this group. It was all so easy and now I can return to this group with a level of credibility that would normally have taken a long time to create!

The next conversational hack is one of the hardest to get right, but getting this right will put you in the leagues of great conversationalists like Bill Clinton or Nelson Mandela. Number four is to be genuine. None of the first 3 work unless you are natural and genuine in the way in which you approach talking to people. This requires you to pay attention, and be interested in what the other person has to say – being interested will allow you to ask the next level of open-ended questions. The more interested you are in what they have to say, the easier it is to ask more questions.

If you’re bored, not paying attention or simply not interested in the other person, you run the risk of alienating them or worse, creating someone who will actively talk negatively about you (some call that gossip, but you get the idea).

We can tell when people are interested or otherwise in what we have say – usually its body language that gives it away. You have to be FULLY present to pull this off well and that means no looking at the door to see if your friends are arriving, not scanning the room to see if there is someone more interesting around and not shuffling on your feet.

I appreciate that this can be hard at times and even I don’t nail this every time, especially if I’m tired or ready to go home. But there is one simple trick I use to maintain eye contact and that is to look onto the bride of the other person’s nose. Try this with friends – you’re not looking into their eyes, but they cannot tell; they think you’re maintaining eye contact with them, which is interpreted as interest in the other person. Add the three hacks mentioned before and even the most seemingly boring person in the world can become the most interesting person in the world to you if you’re fully present.

I actually believe that everyone of us has something interesting and powerful to share. Most people don’t know how to bring this out of other people

The final hack I have is the simplest of all. Smile. Smile like you really mean in – smile through your whole body. That may sound weird, but it’s about congruence. I’ve been practicing yoga for 27 years and one of the things I’ve taken away is congruence in your way of being mentally and physically. I know that we can all ‘smile’ easily, but smiling through your whole body actually manifests not just on your mouth, but through your eyes and your whole being. People open up to you in a completely different way. I’m going to go through this further in my next article, but this is the secret sauce that will put you into the ‘big league’ of conversationalists.

There you have it, my 5 hack to become a great conversationalist:

1. Ask open ended questions
2. Mirror body language
3. Ascertain personality and match their language style
4. Be genuine
5. Smile with your whole body

Like everything in life this will take practice. It won’t all come together overnight, but you’ll probably realise that you are doing much of this already in part. Pull it together, mindfully apply the skills and soon this will be second nature to you and you’ll become a natural.

By | 2018-12-27T09:31:47+00:00 December 27th, 2018|Categories: BNI, Business Development, Personal Development|Tags: , |Comments Off on 5 Hacks to become a great conversationalist

About the Author:

Firstly, he's a pretty great guy you'll want to hang out with him. When you're not hangin out with him, Braith runs the Melbourne franchise of BNI and helps people connect with their dream clients by finding their target market. He likes helping people through online courses, workshops and public speaking - so why not find out more about him?