How to have meaningful conversations that go beyond “How are you”
Conversations are a great way to build real human connections, whether you’re trying to maintain existing relationships or create new ones. Having meaningful conversations will help us learn and process our experiences together.
It can be difficult to move beyond the usual “How are You?” question. “How Are You?” can often feel overwhelming. We say, “Good!” or, “Hang in there,” as it’s too overwhelming to explain how we are really feeling.
Even more difficult is when we are talking with someone who has different opinions about the social and politics that are happening around us. We often find ourselves speaking at, against, or over one another rather than with each other. We miss out on the opportunity to learn new things from those who challenge our preconceived notions. These conversations can help us create new ideas and improve our mental health by encouraging us to think about our perceptions. Why is it that we find it so difficult to have conversations that will make us happier, more fulfilled, and more connected?
Conversations can be viewed as a microcosm of a relationship. Both parties must be willing to listen and talk, as well as teach and learn. A good conversation, like a healthy relationship, creates a safe environment in which both parties feel respected. The conversation can be built on a foundation of trust. It’s good to know that most people are looking for a way to connect on a deeper basis. Here’s a list of tips that will help you achieve this goal.
Start with curiosity
Every conversation, whether it is with friends, family members, Bumble Date, or an Uber driver, is an opportunity to learn. Curiosity keeps the conversation going. We also know more and retain it better when we are motivated to do so. You’re likely to learn something from the person you are talking to, whether they know about something you have experienced, something you want to see, or something that was in the news. If you’re not sure about something, ask. Ask if someone brings up a topic you’re interested in learning more about. Ask questions to find out the reasons why someone holds a different view than you. Curiosity helps to move the conversation past superficial small talk and makes us feel more connected with the person we are speaking to.
Avoid self-fulfilling questions
We often ask questions to push our own biases and expectations onto others. We will get an answer “yes” or a “no” when we ask, “Did you feel mad?” or “Were You Happy?” Asking, “How did you feel?” instead invites the person to lead the conversation without judgment and answer without fear of criticizing.
Asking more open-ended questions encourages people to think about what they’re experiencing and feel on a deeper, more personal level. This will help you to understand the other person better and make the conversation more meaningful.
Not all thoughts that come to you need a microphone. It’s sometimes better to let your thoughts drift by without expressing them. Listen to the other person and don’t interrupt them. You might forget to tell a funny story or make a clever comment. Let the other person finish their sentence. If what you want to say no longer makes sense or does not contribute to the conversation, let it go.
Empathy is being able to put aside your biases in order to truly understand another person’s perspective, experiences, and mindset. To empathize with others, you must first acknowledge that everyone is biased. You will need to work hard to maintain this bias throughout your life. Listening with empathy is a decision to listen without criticizing someone’s opinion or values. You don’t have to agree, but it is important to respect their right to speak and be heard.
Remember that their struggles are not yours.
Don’t bring up your ex when someone talks about a struggle with work or family issues, a relationship, or anything else. You may think you’re comforting someone else by telling your semi-related story. However, it can make them feel ignored and that you have made their struggles about you. It is not your experience.
You may be prone to interrupting others when they are talking. Try to listen to them and not jump in. You can still offer some insight if you feel that way. Let them know you have experienced something similar.
It can be difficult to speak your truth when you have different values and opinions. In a deeper discussion, learning, and growth can be gained by being able to express your own authentic opinions and then having them challenged. Here are some tips on how to speak honestly and respectfully:
- Let people know you listen and understand their opinions. This will help them to feel that you come from a place where you have honesty and respect.
- Don’t step onto a soapbox. Directly address people, not at them. Good conversations begin and end on the same level. The goal is for everyone to grow and learn, regardless of who has the superior opinion.
- Speak with calmness and purpose. What are you trying to say? How can it be best communicated? Pause if you need a few moments to reflect. The silence during a discussion allows you to reflect and take the time to be yourself. They want to see the real you so they can also show their true self.
It’s easy for our minds to wander during a discussion, whether we’re thinking about all the things on our to-do lists or that snarky e-mail from our boss. You won’t be able to listen to a conversation if you are distracted fully. Please give them your full attention. The other person’s precious time is as important as yours. It’s more than putting your phone down and maintaining eye contact. To listen with your whole heart is to practice mindfulness.
- Do not worry about the next thing you will say. You are not paying attention if you wait for the person to finish talking before you say what you think. Please focus on the message they’re trying to convey to you and their point of view.
- React less and reflect more. It’s normal to react in a knee-jerk way to what people say. To fully understand someone’s words, we must give them the opportunity to express themselves and sometimes even to figure out their thoughts. Before you make a judgment, consider how and why the person formed their opinions and values. Ask questions to understand if you are unsure.
Conversations can remind us of our worth and value and that we’re seen, heard, etc. How we talk and listen to each other can have a profound impact on how we progress as individuals and communities. Conversations will only happen when we show up and are present for one another.