How are you? How’s it going? How’s your day today?
Hi, good, what about you?
That’s usually where the conversation goes to die.
The problem with small talk is that it rarely generates any new context and it certainly doesn’t spark much interest from either person. I understand that we all have speech patterns and routines, and that sometimes we don’t really care to engage in conversations with others, but if you really want to start having deeper and different conversations then it’s time you became acutely aware of the words you’re using.
Words are incredibly powerful. The tiniest of changes in a person’s vocabulary can create huge shifts in their life. Imagine you go to a party where the guest list includes many of your old friends you haven’t seen in a while and a lot of new people you’ve never met before. There are numerous opportunities for you to introduce yourself, ask people about themselves, and to tell people about your life and what you do with your time. You lead with “Hi I’m Jon (shake hands), what’s your name? How do you know so-and-so? (hosts) You live around here? What do you do for work? Nice meeting you!”
Now those weren’t too bad, but they were all questions we’ve been asked dozens of times and have pre-determined answers to. Humans create patterns in our behaviour and vocabulary. We do this to create efficiency and conserve energy. So if you are looking to create a real connection with others and to generate new conversations and answers, you have to be willing to venture out of the box and break the patterns.
A very quick way to shake up your speech patterns is to eliminate certain words/phrases.
No more using “good”, “fine”, and “okay” when answering questions. Delve deeper and respond more genuinely. You will be surprised how hard it is to not use these convenient answers. It will force you to consciously think about the question in order to generate new alternatives. No more mindless answers and questions.
Not many great things come from asking questions that start with “how?” How is/was your day? How are you doing? How’s everything going?
Using the word “how” is more often than not going to be a dead end when it comes to question asking. We use this word because we are used to it. Because its on the surface, because we dont have to risk feeling weird or vulnerable, because maybe we really dont care. But if you do actually care, and you genuinely want to listen to somebody and form a meaningful connection, then this is not the way to go about it.
Here are two very similar questions/statements:
1. How was your day?
2. Tell me about your day.
The first will most likely leave the person answering with 3-4 words to choose from. The second leaves an infinite amount of possibilities that can stem from it. The second question lets the person answering have the ability to tell a story, to actually consider the question and respond appropriately. Rather than just reacting to a phrase that we hear 5-10 times each and every day.
Replace the word “how” with “tell me” and you will be surprised at how the world opens up to you. We all want to tell people about ourselves, give people a chance to do so and form the meaningful connections that you desire.