Conversation tactics strategies to charm befriend and defend
Conversation Tactics: Strategies to Charm, Befriend, and Defend by Patrick KingConversation Tactics
I breezed through an e-book yesterday called “Conversation Tactics: Strategies to Charm, Befriend and Defend” by Patrick King. This was one of those books that kindle floats by me all the time under the ‘you might be interested’ category. It was for the low, low price of $3.99 so I figured I’d take a chance.
Who doesn’t want to be an adroit conversationalist? As a partial introvert I find interacting socially with strangers exhausting. I’ve gotten better at it, but I can always use some help. I thought those of you who have the same social challenges might like to hear about it.
This book is short and very tactical. It is written in the current e-book prose style that is quick and breezy. It’s not going to win any Pulitzer awards but it has some good reminders. It’s an easy read, with a checklist type format.
Here are some takeaways.
1. Know how to take a compliment. I know it took me years to learn how to take a compliment. The correct answer when you receive a compliment is ‘thank you’. Don’t try to self-deprecate your way out of the compliment. The pro level tactic is to reverse the compliment.
For example: “You look like you’ve lost some weight!” The incorrect way to accept the compliment is to argue and self-deprecate. “No I’ve actually gained 4 pounds.” Or “Yes, but I’m such a fat cow anyway you hardly notice!” Wrong.
The correct way is to thank and reverse. “Thank you, you always say the nicest things.”
Even if you’re not sure whether it’s a compliment or not you can respond with a thank you and reverse. It will work. It’s a pleasant experience for both of you.
2. Look for and use conversational high points. When there is a particular topic that you resonate well on make note of it. This way you can call back to this point of common enthusiasm later in the conversation.
3. Contrary to popular belief it’s ok to interrupt as long as you are adding to or confirming what they are saying. This may be as simple as nodding or saying “You’re so right!”
Just don’t interrupt to take over. This signals that you weren’t really listening. You were just waiting for a chance to talk.
One great way I’ve discovered to keep the conversation going is to ask questions. Not just clarifying questions but deeper questions around the topic or story they are telling. Instead of piling on with your own opinion or your own story about that topic ask a great question.
For example: The person is telling about their horse riding session. You might ask “Do you think the horse feels a personal bond with you? Is there some kind of deeper connection?”
4. Make sure people feel respected. I know this to be true. Nothing makes me angrier than when I feel I’m not being respected. Even if you have to fake it, make sure people feel respected. Don’t dismiss them. Don’t order them around. Acknowledge their fears and emotions. Make a connection.
Much of the tactics around making people feel respected is just to be present in the conversation. To listen. To acknowledge. It’s not hard to do but many of us struggle with this because we have so many other things swirling in our brains. Take a deep breath. Be present.
5. One of the great tips I got from this book was ‘the two second rule’. This means waiting two seconds after the person has finished speaking before piling on or responding. It sends the message that you are actually thinking about what the other person said not just waiting for your turn.
Although I love this tactic as an idea, I struggle with how well it would work when there are more than two people. Multi-party conversations hate to have gaps and someone will dive in. If you follow the two second rule in these situations you might not ever get your chance.
6. Speak their language or, as we use to call it, ‘mirroring’. All this means is that you consciously listen to the pacing and vocabulary being used and you match it as much as appropriate.
Traveling I run into different local speech patterns and I’ll have to speed up or slow down my conversation style to match. I’ll slip into the local dialect with pronunciations and vocabulary. You have to be careful that you are being respectful and not parodying the locals.
The same is true with body language. I’m not saying do the creepy mirroring thing. Just be cognizant of what they are doing with their face, hands etc. You may notice something you can work with to make the other person more comfortable.
7. The author suggests warming up for social interactions by some whacky facial and voice gymnastics, similar to how an actor might warm up. I’m not sure about that one. To each his own.
8. The author suggests that you shouldn’t try to memorize and particular parts of your conversation tactics ahead of time. He does recommend having an idea of what your bookends are. These are how you start and how you end a conversation.
I agree that trying to memorize conversational interactions is silly. There are, however stories that you can have in your back pocket that you have practiced and know are interesting. Tip O’neill in his “Speaker of the House” memoir recounted how Boston’s Mayor Curly had told him to memorize a handful of poems and stories that he could always rely on when asked to speak.
9. Asking questions. We all know we should ask questions in a conversation. There is nothing better for building empathy than asking good questions. However you don’t want it to feel like an interrogation. Patrick suggest a 2:1 ratio of questions and personal stories. Ask two good questions, follow up with a story of your own, then ask two more, etc. This builds a nice flow and follows the old ‘two ears, one mouth’ maxim.
10. There is a very useful chapter on how to take punches. This is where people are giving you digs, whether as good natured or semi-good natured attacks. The tactical jujitsu is to co-opt the joke. For instance if someone says something like, “And I’d like to thank Joe for making the rest of us look good…” Joe takes over the joke and might say “You’re very welcome, I make it my personal mission to think about the team!”
Of course if someone is just attacking you or making you feel uncomfortable it’s ok to stop them with a “What did you say?” or “What do you mean by that?”
11. Never laugh first. The author meant for you to make sure you’re not the only one laughing at your jokes. I’ve seen this play out in conversations where a person’s lack of self-confidence leads to following every sentence with a nervous ‘ha ha’. If you do that you’re just letting the other party know you’re not sure of yourself. Listen for that and try to stop doing it.
Those are some of the thoughts I had as I was breezing through Patrick’s book. I think my biggest take away is that social situations like anything else have a set of learnable tactics that you can study and deploy.
Through practice you can turn a draining interaction where you are always on high alert and worried about it into a proactive craft. These interactions become a lot more enjoyable and a lot less draining when you can control them and be in the flow. There’s an incredible sense of joy and empowerment when you have an interesting and compelling conversation with another person.
Your homework is to test out one of these tactics this week and see how it feels.
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Conversation Tactics Quotes
Patrick King. Do you want to become more charming and likable - instantly? Or just make sure you can defend yourself verbally, and not be a doormat? Do you lose arguments, find yourself speechless, or get taken advantage of by others? Or do you just want to build meaningful connections and friendships quickly?