Practical psychology: Keep a conversation flowing

Today we're going to be talking about something that I'm sure a lot of you guys have problems with. Let me ask you a question: Have you ever had a hard time coming up with things to talk about? Your brain ever just freeze and you end up with a long, awkward silence? Well today I'm going to be sharing with you four extremely powerful topics that you can talk to just about anyone. Learning and using these four topics will allow you to build large amounts of rapport with just about anyone and will also allow you to create long lasting friendships. An easy way to remember these four is through an acronym I like to call "FORD." So let's jump right into it. F stands for Family. Everyone has some sort of family. They are an integral part of our lives. They are the first people that we get to know, and for that reason, we hold a special place in our hearts for them. Studies have found time and time again that when people share family related matters with strangers, they feel significantly closer to them afterwards. Now, the main problem with speaking about family is that it can sometimes come off very strong if you ask someone about their family upfront. What you need to do instead is branch the conversation in a way so that the topic of family naturally pops up. Here's two way to go about doing this: The first is by talking about your family first. Let's say, for example, you're at a party and you're talking with some girl, and you notice there's a very loud, excited guy on the dance floor. You could say something like this: "You see that guy over there? He really reminds me of my older brother, who's always energetic and not afraid to let loose. I feel like older siblings are always like that. Do you have any siblings?" By saying something like this, you direct the converstation towards family and you also make the initiative to open up first. This gives her an opportunity to talk about her siblings without having to have her guard up. If she doesn't have any siblings, you could say something along the lines of, "Oh, do you ever wise you had one?" Again, the conversation is re-directed towards family, and the transition seems smooth. Now the second way to get someone to talk about their family is by using what are called "non-sequiturs." Basically, assumptions that you make about someone. For example, let's say you meet someone new at the bar. You can say something like, "You know, you look like you come from a big family." Non-sequiturs like this accomplish two things: They create a sense of curiosity, leading to questions like, "Uhm... why do you think I come from a big family?" They also sometimes cause the listener to correct your statement. Maybe they don't come from a big family, and they start talking about it. Maybe they do come from a big family, and they go into details about it. The second topic is O, which stands for "occupation." They say that 45% of our lives are spent on our occupation. Whether it be at school, or at work, it's definitely a big part of our lives. Speaking about someone's occupation is actually very common. It's considered surface-level conversation. You've probably heard lines like, "What's your major?" dozens of times before. The key to speaking about occupation is not to dwell on these surface-level questions and instead quickly jump into a deeper conversation. For example, let's say you're on a date, and you ask her what she does for a living. She says, "I'm a schoolteacher." A lot of people make the following mistake; they go, "Okay, what subject do you teach?" "Okay, what school do you teach at?" "Okay, how old are the kids you teach?" When you ask question upon question, you enter what's called "interview mode," and it's very uncomfortable for the listener. What you want to do instead is to add a comment before asking another question. For example, let's say she says, "Oh, I'm a teacher." You could say something along the lines of, "Wow, you know, when I was younger, I always wanted to be a teacher. There's something about inspiring others that's very fulfilling." By saying something like this, you're adding a little bit about what YOU feel about her occupation before asking the next question. This leads to significantly deeper topics than, "Oh, what school do you work at?" When meeting a stranger, talking about occupation first is usually the best bet. This is because out of the four topics, occupation is talked about the most. They feel extremely comfortable talking about it. The next topic is R, which stands for "recreation." Everyone has some sort of recreational activity. It could be an interest, or a hobby, sometimes it's even something that they're very passionate about. Similar to talking about occupation, you want to ask surface-level questions while adding comments in between. An easy way to lead a conversation into talking about recreation is by simply asking, "What do you like to do?" Yes, I know it's cliche, but it works very well. Recreation can sometimes be a little bit harder to talk about than occupation, because oftentimes, you'll meet someone who likes to do something you know nothing about. Don't worry, because in these cases, all you have to do is approach the conversation with the following mentality: Why is this activity so exciting for him or her? Let's say for example you meet someone who tells you they like rock climbing and you've never done it before, you could say something along the lines of, "Oh, that's cool, I've always thought rock climbing was an interesting sport. Why do you like it so much?" Questions like these really make the other person feel like they're being listened to. They also allow the other person to really dive deep and explain to you why they enjoy their recreational activity as much as they do. The final topic is D, which stands for "dreams." Without a doubt, this is the most powerful topic you can talk to someone about. Everyone has a dream that they are pursuing or wish they could be pursuing, and this topic is especially powerful nowadays because the average person does not get to pursue their dream. Oftentimes it's because there is very little support found in our society. Most people are told to just get conventional jobs instead of pursuing their passions by everyone around them, including their parents and friends. So if you step in and show that you are supportive of their dreams, they begin to think very fondly of you. Dreams are oftentimes the hardest things to get people to open up about, and this is why it's the last of the four topics I like to bring up with someone. You want to make sure you've built a sufficient amount of rapport before leading the conversation towards dreams in order to get truly meaningful responses. So I'll share with you guys two tricks that I personally use to redirect the conversation towards dreams. Number 1: Sometimes you'll get an idea of what a person's dream is, by talking about their recreational activity. If they mention that they like to draw, their dream might be to become an artist one day. So the first trick is to use this information and make an educated guess. So for the person who likes to draw, you might ask, "Have you ever thought about becoming an artist for a living?" And as you can see, this can easily lead to deeper conversation. Now, the second way - my most favorite way - to get someone to open up about their dreams, is to talk about the bigger picture. Now, what does that mean? Well, sometimes I'll be on a date, and I'll be walking with a girl through a park and I'll just look at the night sky and say, "Just look up there, the universe is so vast. It's so big. I feel like our lives have more meaning than just working a 9-to-5. You ever dream of accomplishing something bigger than what you're doing right now?" Yes, it's super cheesy, but again, it works. It redirects the conversation to dreams. I also like to ask questions like, "What's something you want to do before you die?" I like to make the question relevant to the things happening around me. Maybe I'll be at a bookstore with someone, and I see a biography of someone who's passed away. Or maybe I'll be on the bus with someone and we'll drive past a cemetery. And there you have it, these are the four topics that you can talk to anyone about. These are the same four topics I used back in the day when I was a door-to-door salesperson. In those days, I was forced to build a large amount of trust with absolute strangers in under an hour, and convince them to give me their social security number for credit checks and their credit card information for the actual purchase. So I can swear by these four topics.

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