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10 ways to have a better conversation

Conversation is one of the defining things that makes human special. And a good conversation can make our day or even weeks. But how does one lead or guide a good conversation? What can we do to improve our conversational skills to be better at it? This TED talk* explains how (see how much mindfulness can help):

Number 1. "Don't multitask. And I don't mean just set down your cell phone or your tablet or your car keys or whatever is in your hand. I mean, be present. Be in that moment. Don't think about your argument you had with your boss. Don't think about what you're going to have for dinner. If you want to get out of the conversation, get out of the conversation, but don't be half in it and half out of it.

If you would like to start training your mind to do this, begin with a daily dose of Mindfulness Check-In. This exercise trains your mind to come back to the present and topic at hand.

Number 2: "Don't pontificate. If you want to state your opinion without any opportunity for response or argument or pushback or growth, write a blog.

Everybody is an expert in something. Be curious. Better yet, use mindfulness to train your open hearted curiosity to yourself and others!

Number 3: In order to satisfy your curiosity, "use open-ended questions... Start your questions with who, what, when, where, why or how. If you put in a complicated question, you're going to get a simple answer out. If I ask you, "Were you terrified?" you're going to respond to the most powerful word in that sentence, which is "terrified," and the answer is "Yes, I was" or "No, I wasn't."

Number 4: "Go with the flow. That means thoughts will come into your mind and you need to let them go out of your mind. We've heard interviews often in which a guest is talking for several minutes and then the host comes back in and asks a question which seems like it comes out of nowhere, or it's already been answered." Focus on the present!

Number 5: "If you don't know, say that you don't know... Talk should not be cheap."

Number 6: Don't equate your experience with theirs. If they're talking about having lost a family member, don't start talking about the time you lost a family member. If they're talking about the trouble they're having at work, don't tell them about how much you hate your job. It's not the same. It is never the same. All experiences are individual. And, more importantly, it is not about you.

Number 7: "Try not to repeat yourself. It's condescending, and it's really boring, and we tend to do it a lot. Especially in work conversations or in conversations with our kids, we have a point to make, so we just keep rephrasing it over and over. Don't do that."

Number 8: "Stay out of the weeds. Frankly, people don't care about the years, the names, the dates, all those details that you're struggling to come up with in your mind. They don't care. What they care about is you. They care about what you're like, what you have in common. So forget the details. Leave them out."

People often do Step 7 and 8 on auto-pilot. Start your journey of turning that off by practicing mindfulness regularly.

Number 9: "This is ...the most important one. Listen. I cannot tell you how many really important people have said that listening is perhaps the most, the number one most important skill"that you could develop. Buddha said, and I'm paraphrasing, "If your mouth is open, you're not learning."And Calvin Coolidge said, "No man ever listened his way out of a job."

And what do we know, mindfulness trains ones listening skills!

Number 10, "and it's this one: Be brief. A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject. -- [presenter's] Sister"

In summary, build a good mindfulness foundation for yourself and try the 10 tips!

* See the original TED presentation here.

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