[This post is part of a series on Communication Skills Exercises for Business and Life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
The previous exercises work fine on their own. You can further use them as building blocks to create whole conversations that are intriguing, interactive, mutually satisfying. Here are some tips to use them together.
Keep topics open by not closing all before starting new one
Going from topic to topic by ending each one before starting the next results in lulls from which is can be difficult to restart the conversation. If you’re having a great conversation with someone at a company you’d like to hire you, you’d rather they were talking or intrigued with something you’re saying than for them to walk away to avoid the awkwardness.
To keep conversations going, start new topics before ending current ones.
This pattern mimics conversations with friends and people you know well. Familiar conversations commonly go off on tangents where you lose track of where you are. Conversations with new people run out of steam when they stick too much to one topic. This practice helps avoid running out of steam.
Points of high tension are great times to start topics
I don’t mean tension between you and your conversational counterpart. I mean tension in the content of your conversation.
For example, in storytelling, after you’ve introduced the characters and conflict, your listeners will be hooked. You can start a new topic then without losing them. You can come back to the story, finish it, and restart the second topic.
Also, in the meaningful connections exercise, after they told you their passion or their response to what they particularly like about their passion (steps 2 or 4), you can start a new topic without losing them since they’ll appreciate when you return to their passion. You can then return to the exercise, finish it, and return to the new topic.
You can follow any ice-breaker or lull with C-hopping or telling a story
If you always keep in mind a few words from the last thing they said (remember, these exercises motivate listening), you can always restart a paused conversation with something they said.
If you always have a story or two handy, you can restart from a lull by telling it. Starting by describing characters gets people interested in the story better than most other beginnings.
Remember stories and topics that get reactions you like and C-hop toward them
You’ll have topics you can get to and from without seeming like you’re steering the conversation.
Nonverbal communication at key moments (story beginnings or moments of tension) adds emphasis
Nonverbal communication includes body language, posture, facial expression, pacing, volume, pausing, gesturing, and so on.
Listen and observe to make sure your partner is with you
A conversation isn’t a monologue. Treating the other person as the more important person in the conversation often results in greater interest on their part.
That you will improve with practice goes without saying. Practice the exercises, in particular since they improve specific skills. With practice you’ll get the underlying principles, which will enable you to deviate from the scripts and still achieve what the exercises are designed for. Eventually each exercise will seem second-nature – for example, you’ll feel something missing when you tell a story without detailing the characters and conflict
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