Practicing The Art Of Conversation

The key to engaging a stranger in conversation is to find common ground. By common ground, I mean finding something that you and the other person share. It could be an interest, children, pets, a place you have both been, or people you both know.

In order to find your commonality, you have to ask A LOT of questions. The best ones to ask are “open ended” questions. These are framed in a way that the questions cannot be answered in one word.

An example of a closed question is, “Do you commute to work?” Obviously this question can be answered with a simple yes or no. Repositioning the question to become open ended would be, “Tell me about your commute to work.” Using this technique, you are able to gather more information about the person to establish commonality. Do they rent their house or own it, take a bus, drive, drop kids off at school?

Here are a few suggested questions to get you started:

* I’d be interested in knowing how you got started in your job?

* What made you decide to explore this line of work?

* What is the most rewarding part of your job?

* Tell me about where you have lived in the past.

Use these questions as a springboard to ask more questions. Practice makes perfect.

A few more tips:

* Listen more than talk

* Acknowledge their answers with “I understand” or “I see”

* Use eye contact and facial acknowledgments

* Don’t “one up” the person with your own stories

* If you see the person has stopped talking, ask more questions!
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