Maybe it’s because a journalist, but the way I know I’m in a good conversation is that I unconsciously start to reach for my notepad, because everything we’re discussing fascinates me so.
On the one hand, I want to take notes on what we’re talking about – maybe they’re telling me about an awesome vacation they took or maybe I’m telling them about my relationship with my family.
But on the other hand, I want to record those subtle strategies they’re using to guide the interaction. How did I wind up gripping my chair in suspense? Or, how did they get me to open up like that?
I imagine I’m not the only one who’s had these questions. So I turned to some Quora threads for insight into the most common behaviors that make someone a pleasure to talk to.
Read on to find out what those excellent conversationalists do – and how you can start emulating them.
1. They learn what you care about — and let you talk about it
Quora user Rajesh Setty says it’s important to allow your conversation partner to reveal what interests them.
“You will be tempted to interrupt and share what you care about every now and then,” he says. “The trick is to hold off and focus on the other person first. You will get your chance.”
In fact, recent research suggests that talking about yourself is inherently pleasurable; it stimulates the same reward centers in the brain that are lit up by sex, cocaine, and good food. So it makes sense that people would feel positively about a conversation in which they held the spotlight.
2. They show their emotions
Max Lukominskyi writes:
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of emotions during the dialogue. While talking, accompany your words with corresponding gesture and feelings. Meanwhile, as a listener show your reaction and let your partner know how you feel about what she says.
Research backs him up: One study found that people who suppress their emotions are often perceived as less likable than those who express their feelings.
3. They find something they have in common with you
Brian Blose recommends that you “find ways to transition conversations to areas of mutual interest.”
Blose says he often starts out by asking what his conversation partner does for a living; other times he mentions a new restaurant he visited.
“You might have to try a few topics before you find something you have in common.”
Psychological research helps explain why this strategy might work — according to thesimilarity-attraction effect, we tend to gravitate toward people who are just like us, and especially when we share similar attitudes and values.
4. They keep an open mind
“Those who close themselves off from certain ideas and associate only with like-minded people are missing out on not only personal growth but opportunities for advancing their careers,” writes Anoop Nain.
What’s more, bullying someone into seeing your point of view can be a total turn-off.
One of the best ways to carry on deep conversations, as opposed to small talk, is to be open to hearing about your conversation partner’s ideas, instead of forcing them to adopt yours.
5. They make you feel comfortable
“Take a second to think about the other person’s day and see what you can do to make it better,” says Ayush Agarwal. “Something as simple as getting the other person a glass of water or offering to chat at a cafe might put things [off] to a good start.”
That way, your conversation partner will immediately feel like you care about them — plus, they won’t be distracted by their thirst.