I was thinking the other day how I could be a better conversation partner, and show myself more friendly to others. I began to think about the kinds of things I find annoying when talking to others: failure to make eye contact, interrupting, dominating the conversation, changing the topic, etc. Then, I thought of another faux pas that I’m sure most of us are guilty of. Not only have I observed it so often in others, but I find myself doing it as well, either due to nervousness (particularly when meeting someone new), my desire to demonstrate our commonalities, or in some cases, just pure selfishness. To what do I refer?
When in conversation with someone, we have the tendency to relate our own experience when it is similar to something the other person is talking about. The worst thing to do is relate your story while the person is in the midst of telling their own! But it may be good to withhold your story, even if they have finished theirs. I don’t know about you, but if, when I finish telling my story to someone, they immediately begin talking about themselves, I get the feeling that they are more interested in their own story than mine. It almost feels like you have two people competing against one another to share their personal story, each talking past the other. If we want to be a better conversation partner, and show ourselves more friendly while in conversation, instead of telling our story, how about we seek to know more about their story? Show them you are listening and you care by asking them to share more. Not only is this flattering to your conversation partner, but it expresses our genuine interest in them as a person. Rather than using their story as an opportunity to talk about ourselves, we use it as an opportunity to get to know them better. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to share our own experience in the future.