I had a conversation the other day. I tried to talk about a personal experience, but the conversation kept getting refocused on the other person. Needless to say, it was frustrating. You may have had a similar experience.

You: “My college age daughter is wondering what her major should be.”

Friend: “My daughter has always known she wants to be a lawyer. We have lots of lawyers in our family.”

You: “Well, my daughter doesn’t seem too interested in the career of her mom or dad, so but I am trying to help her navigate her choice.”

Friend: “Lawyers make good money. We don’t have to help our daughter at all. She’s known what she wants to do since high school.”

By now, you probably want to phone a friend, a different friend that is! This conversation is all about your friend and she is not listening. She isn’t being helpful and is bragging about her daughter. So what could help change this story to one of mutual sharing and encouragement? What could make this a better conversation? Here are 5 tips:

  1. Do not make a conversation all about you. This may seem obvious, but a one-sided conversation is not satisfying. Instead, listen to what the person is saying. Be curious and ask questions. Show interest in the topic and let the other person talk. Hopefully, they will return the same interest and curiosity about you.
  2. Listen, listen, listen. Listening seems to be a lost art these days. People seem more concerned about getting their opinion or viewpoint across and less concerned about diversity of thought. To counter this, listen and validate what the other person is saying. You can use what is called “reflective listening”–listen and repeat what you heard. This allows the other person to know you really are listening. You’ve heard the old saying, God gave us two ears and one mouth! Try to speak less, listen more. Friends want good listeners.
  3. Stop comparing and one-upping. We see this on social media all the time. However, conversation is not a contest. It’s not all about you (sorry ego!) and your successes. Yet, competition and comparisons are a turn off to developing true friendship or intimacy.
  4. Give and take. Conversations should be a flow of listening and talking. This means asking questions, making sure you are not monopolizing the conversation. If you are not giving equal time to the other person to share, you are probably talking too much. So pay attention to how often you give space to the other person in a conversation.
  5. Stop trying to be right. Otherwise, you will lose friends. It’s a turn off. Yet, many conversations get stuck because one person has to be right. We need to stop trying to convince each other of our point and learn to tolerate differences. We learn from the perspectives of others.
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