Always have something meaningful to say (small talk and beyond.)

Ever at a loss for words?  Ever envy those with the gift of gab? Maybe learning to talk endlessly about anything is not for you, however, having a few meaningful things to say can change your life. The reason it is important to have meaningful conversation is that words tend to help make others comfortable because they can get to know you, whereas, silence tends to make others uncomfortable because they feel threatened and uncertain about you.

The secret is to know three meaningful “things” to say about yourself, three meaningful things to say about current events, and to be present and notice and express feelings about the current environment.  This secret is both simple and powerful.

Actually “Things” are exactly what you do not want. “Thinging” means making yourself an object, something that we often do without our even knowing. (“PAIRING: How to Achieve Genuine Intimacy” by George R. Bach and Ronald M. Deutsch copyright 1970.)

Example of what you do not want to do when meeting someone for the first time:

“Hi, I’m Kevin Rhea, ‘Rhea’ is Irish name but I was born in Alaska before it was a U.S. State. I am a computer programmer.  And You?”

What is wrong with the above introduction? You probably hear many such introductions so what is the problem?

First, the introduction says nothing personal about me, it simply identifies some facts. Secondly and most importantly, it “things” me in the mind of the other person.  All of their associations with other people named Kevin, the Irish culture, Eskimos, and computer programmers are put on me without their or my even realizing it. I become Kevin, the Irish Eskimo Programmer.

Maybe you think, “That’s kind of interesting – Kevin, the Irish Eskimo Programmer” but if you really want to make meaningful contact with someone, you must not “thing” yourself because once “thinged”, it is difficult to change this impression as all new information is placed into the existing “thinged” categories.

A better introduction would be:

“Hi, I ‘m happy to meet you. It feels great to be at this outdoor cafe after being inside all day.  I spend as much time as I can outdoors.  That is a beautiful sweater you are wearing,  is it a favorite of yours?”

This is better start to an introduction because:

  • no “thinging” is done
  • my feelings about the current environment are expressed  (great to be at the cafe)
  • something important about me is expressed (I love the outdoors)
  • I notice something personal about the other person (beautiful sweater)

As the conversation continues, I can express more things that are important to me as well as discuss current events and what is happening around me.  The combination of being personal, being present, and talking about current events encourages a natural conversation which is meaningful and flows between what is important to me, what is important to my partner, what is happening around me and my partner, and what is happening in the world.
After a connection between the two of us is established it is fine to say my name, occupation, and other “things” and facts about myself as they naturally occur in the conversation.

In order to always have something meaningful to say, write the following on a 3 inch by 5 inch card each day and keep it with you:

Me

x is important to me
I love y
I look forward to z

The Community and World

x happened in the world today
y happened in community today
A pattern of z seems to be happening around us

Ask About Them

What is important to them?
What do they love?
What do they look forward to?

Remember to stay present and notice what is happening in your environment.

The information on this one 3×5 card is all you need to strike up a meaningful conversation with anyone.  This strategy works in person or on the telephone resulting in a meaningful conversation which can lead to many things and can be enjoyable for its own sake.

Don´t be afraid to start off with some small talk about the weather or other trivial matter (that´s what everyone does) – after all you need to find a way to introduce yourself and small talk is a time-honored and socially accepted way of breaking the ice.  If you have trouble making small talk, seek out web resources or books as small talk can be learned.

And what if no results occur from a particular conversation? Be happy that you did all you could to establish meaningful contact and are just experiencing one of the Principles “Not everyone was meant to be your friend or partner”.