As you head out for your family vacation, be sure to turn off the lights, lock the doors – and stop talking like a lawyer.
That means conversing with your kids instead of cross-examining them. It means not objecting to something your spouse says as irrelevant, and not trying to impeach grandma’s credibility as she tells the same old embarrassing stories from your childhood.
It’s not as easy as you think.
We were trained in law school to talk like lawyers. We learned how to debate. We were taught how to arrange facts in a logical pattern leading to an irrefutable conclusion. We were rewarded for winning arguments.
“Soon this method of interaction becomes second-nature,” writes law coach and former litigator Kara Loewentheil, who grew up in a household of four lawyers. “Growing up, I just thought that was how conversation works: that dialogue is best understood as a sparring match during which you try to beat your partner into submission, and then you have dessert. So the rhetorical style of law school seemed totally normal and familiar to me.”
But while verbal dexterity might pay off in the courtroom, it will only make you an annoying bore when relaxing with family at the beach.
7 Tips for Meaningful Conversations
Here are some ways to have deeper, richer conversations:
- Show an interest in the other person. Ask what’s happening in their life. Pay them a compliment. Offer positive feedback about something they did. Most people love to talk about themselves.
- Ask open-ended questions. Throw out a topic and let the other person run with it. What are their interests? Start there.
- Be fully present. “Think of the people that you are willing to open up to and share things with,” says this source. “What is it about them that makes you so comfortable disclosing things? Likely they are good at making eye contact and making you feel like you are receiving their full and undivided attention. Pay attention to their expressions. Notice that they are with you not only in the tone of their words but in their expressions. Their faces light up. You sense and feel they are totally engrossed in what you are telling them.”
- Keep the ball rolling. Two surefire prompts to keep a good conversation going are: “Tell me more” and “What makes you say that?”
- Search for common ground. Don’t dwell on points of disagreement. Focus on feelings, not facts. Pay attention to what the other person is saying, not on proving you are right.
- Practice active listening. Often we are thinking about what we are going to say next when someone else is speaking. Be aware of your tendency to do this. “When you find your mind going to a response, stop and try to force yourself to listen,” advises Fast Company. “This is not easy, especially if you are highly extroverted. You can practice by spending time with your partner or a friend and repeating back to them what they just said.”
- Choose the right time and place. You can’t have a meaningful conversation in a distracting, noisy environment. Think coffee shops, not sports bars.
So where are you headed for your summer getaway?
- Above the Law http://abovethelaw.com/career-files/how-to-stop-treating-conversation-like-cross-examination/
- Fast Company https://www.fastcompany.com/3027801/5-ways-to-have-great-conversations
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