Listen and learn

A lot of people are so busy (quite correctly) mastering their high-tech skills that their people skills have taken a back seat. When you’re wrapped up in codes, alerts and dynamic dumps, it’s easy to forget how to, or not bother to, strike up a conversation and keep it rolling. In fact, I recall reading recently abut a millennial who gave up, cold turkey, their smartphone for a fortnight (gasp, shock, horror) and discovered the joys or talking to another person at the bus stop or waiting beside them in the sandwich queue. So that proves my hypothesis.

In the spirit of keeping alive the art of face-to-face tête-à-tête then, I offer my Four S Tips breaking the conversational ice.

  1. Smile. A smile breaks the ice and invites a smile in return. It’s a great way to connect with someone and a great way to look friendlier and even more attractive than you already are (that’s actually scientifically proven). And everyone knows that a pleasant, friendly-looking person is always more attractive than a grouchy-looking person. It’s hard to not return a smile, even from a stranger (unless it’s a creepy-looking stranger). Plus, a smile relaxes your attitude and your vocal chords, so your voice won’t squeak when you do the next S, which is:
  2. Say hi and make a comment the other person can pick up on. For instance, at a conference you can say something about what you do or where you’re from in a way that invites an interested follow-up comment or question. I have a friend who mows paddocks with his tractor for a living; he says ‘Hi, I’m Con. You grow it, I’ll mow it.’ Corny, but it gets a conversation rolling!
  3. Shake hands. Unless it’s culturally inappropriate, a hand shake eliminates awkwardness and makes a connection with the other person. Don’t wait for the other person to stick their hand out – stick your own hand out with confidence to get the conversation off to a good start. (When the other person is Japanese, you might want to give a sight bow instead.)
  4. Solicit information. That means: Ask questions. What better way is there to draw out the other person’s ideas, experiences and opinions? Then ask some more questions to find out more about those ideas, experiences and opinions. Then think about sharing some of your own.

When you use these Four S Tips, you can avoid talking to impress (that means: boring). Instead, you can listen and learn with another real live human being and let the computer cool off in the cupboard for a while.