Imagine you’re in the middle of a conversation.
Someone tells you about this movie that they absolutely love. But in your mind, it deserves to be burned and erased from the memory of all who have seen it.
So you tell them you hate it.
What happens to that conversation? It dies. Just like the movie that you destroyed in your mind, the captivating dialogue has disappeared.
Disagreeing Ruins Conversation
Sometimes we try to find things to disagree with. We want to show that we are unique. We are not some weak personality who conforms to the opinion of the majority of people.
I’m guilty of this. Whenever someone mentions the movie Avatar, I can’t help but think terrible thoughts. But I’ve learned to hold them back and mention the amazing CGI and change the subject.
Being contrary can ruin relationships. I once killed the mood of a Christmas family gathering by being negative. My brother-in-law had bought the game Quelf for my family, and let’s just say I had previous negative experiences with the game.
I went on a tirade about how terrible the game was. In fact, it was the worst game ever. I will play anything but that.
Guess what happened? We ended up playing no games and going to sleep early instead of enjoying the night together.
Default to “Yes!”
The best way to have great conversation is to say “yes” in almost every circumstance.
Find something about the topic that you can affirm. Don’t look for disagreement. Look for agreement.
Do I like Avatar? Yes! I love the graphics.
Do I want to play Quelf? Yes! You guys go ahead and start, I’m going to the bathroom.
Do I agree with your ridiculous political opinion? That’s so interesting! How did you come to that conclusion?
Another way to look at it is finding things in common. Search for key points in the topic of conversation that you can show interest in. Even if you are not super exited about it, act interested because you are interested in them.
This is not being fake. This is caring about people.
There is good reason why the word ‘agreeable’ describes someone who is good at conversation.
But Doesn’t This Make Me a Pushover?
I can relate to being the opposite of assertive. Does all this yes saying make you a passive doormat for people?
I remember nodding my head and laughing at every point in a conversation in which it seemed appropriate. I would agree to anything, not really adding value to the ideas that they generated.
That is passivity. That causes awkward silence. That gets them thinking of ways out of this boring, one-sided dialogue.
What I’m suggesting is not passive. It is delving into the topics that they are interested in and expanding on them. It is building connections through commonalities.
Instead of just nodding your head and laughing, or any other trite responses, ask engaging questions that make them go deeper. Offer related comments. Tell a story that goes along with what they are saying.
Imagine constructing a building together. They offer some materials. You either take what they give and build, or you reject them. You can imagine the kind of building that would result if you reject a bunch of the materials.
If You Don’t Know What to Say
Even if you have an agreeable mindset, sometimes you just don’t know what to say.
You want to ask great questions. You want to go deeper. But your mind goes blank.
You need a plan. You need a solid foundation that you can always return to when your mind is empty.
It is always good to come up with a plan on your own, but I have some general guidelines for you. Download my free guide so you’ll always know what to say.