Having a genuine interest in the other party makes all the difference. (Lack sincerity going in and you'll sound like a polished politician at best.) When you really care about the person you're meeting, your external focus leaves you no room to worry what they think of you -- an all too common distraction -- and leads to a self-reinforcing confidence that aids the exchange more than any pre-scripted techniques can.
I used to feel that way. But, after some contemplation, I realized how conceited that is. People are so multidimensional and have such varying experiences that it is arrogant to think that there is nothing interesting about someone you have just met. They may not be good at communicating and they may seem to be boring or shallow. But, they almost certainly have knowledge and experiences that are foreign to you. The trick is finding what they are. If someone can't find anything interesting about another human being, it probably says more about their lack of wonder than about the target's "interestingness" (although sometimes communication is the problem too). I really like watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe to see him converse with the people he is working with. If you were small talking with these people in the dentist office they might seem boring. But, Rowe is able to bring out their interestingness.
Same here, although I didn't contemplate the change. It just sort of happened somewhere in my late 20s. Late bloomer I guess? Always thought I was smart and understood people. But, now realize I missed plenty by not really getting it and finding what was interesting about others.
Dale Carnegie says that the secret to being a good conversationalist is to be a good listener. People like to talk, especially about themselves (and I don't really mean that in a bad way). If you are a shy person, ask questions that don't have short, dead-end answers (so no questions with binary yes/no answers) and you can "steer" the conversation while the other person does all the "peddling." ;)
I highly recommend Dale Carnegie's classic How To Win Friends and Influence People. The title turns people off, but it is a classic "people person" book.
Then expand your interests until they are broad enough to allow connection with more people. Even if you think you're more interesting, you should relish in the opportunity to give others new insights and point them in the direction of your favourite experiences.
Either way, you should be able to enjoy talking about the human condition, friends, and experiences you've had. These are quite universal.
Exactly. I found that everyone has something interesting to say, although most of them do not even know it. By taking "genuine interest" you'll help them find something they were not really aware of, and then all you have to do is shut up. They'll talk for the whole time and end up finding you the most interesting person around.
I'll remember you as a pleasant person but not the most interesting one. I've found that the most interesting people tend to talk a bit more because they always have something interesting to say, either stories or insights, and people want them to speak more.
"Advice Dog is a popular image macro series that that features a picture of the head of a smiling puppy on a multicolored color wheel background split into 6 colors. Usual derivatives are often accompanied by two lines of text written in a guidance / advising format with the advice given usually being very poor, unethical or deplorable."
Better yet, don't make tongue-in-cheek comments or reference well-established Internet memes. Actually, try not to be funny at all. No... even better, just don't post. There. Now there's more time for everyone!
Your comment reminded of me of a hypothesis I once read about Fermi's paradox, that it may not be physical infection that extraterrestrials would worry about catching from humans, but memetic infection.
"When you share that little piece of your story you'll get one of two responses: a question about how it was or a disinterested, "Oh cool."
In regards to this, speaking to the underlying subject (sports, as per the article's kayaking example) and expanding from there can open more doors than simply mentioning a particular sport which few people do. So, expand kayaking to sports or what is so great about kayaking (ie, "it's great to get out of the office."), therefore the other person can have more things to talk with you about than just kayaking.
This goes back to something, of all things, I overheard on Dr. Phil when the show came on the air. The topic was about getting to the heart of a problem and the "hack" he spoke of went like this,
So, you're middle-aged and thinking of getting a red sports car. Ask yourself why you really want it. The answer might be, "because I want to feel young." Well then, what you want is not the sports car but the underlying feeling it can give you. Now, start over and ask yourself why you want to feel young.
Rinse, repeat until you find out what you really are after and I'll bet there are many more avenues to your destination than just getting a sports car.
The most important conversation of my life (as it led directly to my eventual marriage) started out with a total stranger (girl) walking up to me (guy) and saying
I see you have awesome stuff in your pants.
Referring, of course, to the multiple sets of poi equipment I had stuffed into my pockets. This started a conversation with the instigator and another girl next to me. Once the instigator left (after about 30 seconds), my continuing happiness was ensured by the exceptionally suave line
So... do you wanna keep talking or what?
So, ridiculousness is proven to work in real-life situations. :) You may just end up making somebody else's life.
An originally-Maori artform involving spinning weights on strings, which has in recent years vastly expanded beyond its New Zealand origins to cross-breed with club spinning, staff spinning, glowsticking and various other performance arts. See http://www.playpoi.com or http://www.homeofpoi.com/ .
I think a simple rule is to get the other person to do all the talking by asking them questions. Because most people tend to naturally talk about themselves you may have to force yourself in the opposite direction. If you're fairly conscious about keeping the other person talking, then you're less likely to go off on a boring rant about yourself.
The best conversations I've had tend to have very few questions, and more comments going back and forth. Almost all conversations start with questions but the goal should be to reach a point where you aren't asking any questions at all.
Absolutely, I suppose I meant that you should try to be aware and get the other person talking. In order to do that you need to find out what that person is interested in. Drilling them with questions isn't really the right approach, rather just steering the conversation in a direction that the other person seems to like.
The very best conversation is going to be when you both happen to be interested in the same topic, in which case there's not much effort or social skill involved. That's easy.
The difficult part is when you're at a situation like the OP mentioned with a lot of "small talk" going on and you are struggling to talk with people, feeling awkward, etc. Perhaps you want to have a friendly conversation with your grandma who is not into computers. Perhaps you're trying to network at a corporate event or you're just trying to chat up a girl/guy, etc. People who are very social are masters of making other people feel that they are interesting. They are usually very skilled at getting you talking.
The article has it spot on but it can be simplified into two very important ideas:
1. Keep asking questions until you hit a nerve and find something you have in common with the person. It also works the opposite way. You can find a point of disagreement and talk about that. Nothing heavy, something as simple as "What? You hate country music? I love it! Why don't you like it?" can turn into a full on friendly conversation just the same as "Oh you work with Save the Whales too? How did you like that last event they had?" can.
2. Get a life. If you're a one-dimensional person who's all about one single thing you can't relate to anyone even if they have that one thing in common. I can talk to someone about web development for a long time but eventually talking about the same thing is tiresome. The more life experiences you have the more you can talk about and the easier it is to find things in or not in common with someone else.
The rest on that list are just variations on that theme. If you get a life and ask a lot of questions even the most introverted person can easily turn small talk into large talk (made up term).