Here’s a quick tip from the Improv world that can vastly improve the quality of your conversations. When the other person is speaking, listen closely for what you are most curious about and guide the conversation more in the direction of what interests you.
Follow these simple steps:
1. Listen to what the person is saying and notice what you’d like to know more about.
2. Ask them about that.
Example: You are at a work event and find yourself in conversation with Obnoxious Steve, the new guy on your team that you don’t like talking to because he tends to lead with conversational topics that make you want to run screaming to the bar.
This time, however, when Steve approaches you, you stay put and experiment with following your curiosity.
Steve: Hey, Babe. We almost missed our flight because the traffic was terrible and our stupid Uber driver insisted on following Waze instead of the secret shortcut I know about. The guy could barely speak English. That’s why I’m voting for Trump.
You are now at a choice point. You ask yourself, Where do I want this conversation to go?
1. I could steer us deeper down the racist rabbit hole. So, Steve, what else do you dislike about foreigners?
2. I could move us into a hostile and fruitless political discussion. Trump? Really? Are you f&$#king kidding me Steve?
No thank you.
3. Or perhaps, How about next time you call me babe I punch you in the face?
HR might not be cool with that.
Go to your curiosity; What do I want to know more about?
You: You know a secret shortcut to the airport?
Steve: Hell yeah. It’s not exactly legal because it takes you through a couple of gated communities but it will shave 20 minutes off the ride.
You: (What do I want to know more about?) How do you get through the gates of the gated communities?
Steve: I keep a bunch of mini bottles of Malibu Rum in my glove compartment for the security guys at the gate. Works like a charm.
And just like that, you’re in mutually interesting conversational territory and your co-worker’s face remains unpunched.
Try it out. Listen with curiosity and let me know how it goes!