Technology is replacing many of our face to face conversations, contributing to a decrease in our mental health and lack of connection to our greater community. It might be more convenient to bank and shop online, use the self checkout lane, eat lunch at your desk, text or email instead of calling and pull your phone out in lines and waiting rooms, but daily interactions with other humans, even just to make small talk, serve an important function.
Studies show that engaging in what many of us consider light or superficial conversation can still improve our cognitive functions and problem solving abilities. It helps to expand our vocabularies and exposes us to new or conflicting opinions which challenge us to grow. Conversation also provides us with social support and people are kinder when speaking in person that they are likely to be online.
Let’s face it, though, new social experiences can be scary and make us feel exposed or vulnerable. Overcoming this discomfort and seeking out opportunities to practice the dying art of conversation can give us a large boost in self-esteem and greater overall well being.
Here are some tips to help your next conversation be a positive experience.
Be friendly and polite. Simply smiling and using open body language encourages a positive response from others.
Take turns talking and listening. Think of conversation as a game of catch. Make sure you give other people a chance to speak and respond to what they say. If you’re not getting much of a response, try inviting a subject change by asking what the other person is interested in.
Understand appropriate levels of sharing. When we are consumed with the events of our lives, they can spill out of our mouths before we consider our audience. Sharing confidences can establish trust in a growing friendship but might not be right for the staff team lunch.
Pay attention. This may seem obvious but it is easy to allow our minds to wander when someone else is talking and most of us can sense this. Training yourself to actually listen to what someone is saying makes the speaker feel valued and earns you lots of good will.
Teach yourself compassion. Conversation with others helps us to see the commonality of human existence and helps us to feel less alone. We enjoy better mental health and love longer when we feel connected to other people.
Slow down and breathe. Many people experience social anxiety that can lead to extreme discomfort around other people. Keep in mind that other people are likely experiencing this anxiety too and try to be the person who helps to ease the discomfort of others. You’ll find that this helps you forget about your own anxiety and everyone else will appreciate it.