Today I spent a bunch of hours talking to one of the best conversationalists I know, Tim Schlitzer.
I am actually really lucky because I know so many people who have taken the dialogue to an art form. Zee Zahava is a pure master and a virtuoso, as is Anthony David Adams.
Here is what I think it takes to be a world-class conversationalist:
1. Be engaged with the world. If you are not out in the world, doing things, and having new experiences all the time you will have nothing to talk about. But it is not enough to simply have experiences. You must also…
2. Reflect on your experiences. You can ponder your experiences of course, but I really think it helps if, from time to time, you write down what you learn and how you are personally affected by the people you meet, the places you visit and the experiences you have. (Most of my favorite conversationalists are also really good writers.)
3. Master the art of listening. When you listen to someone else with rapt attention, you not only show respect for that person, but you more quickly locate common ground, where you can then begin to interweave your shared interests and create a beautiful new tapestry of ideas and stories.
4. Be funny. In order to be engaging you must be witty, upbeat and charming. No one wants to hear tales of woe and disaster unless you can spin disaster into a great story. Don Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years should be a primer for all budding conversationalists.
5.Know what a True Dialogue is. A dialogue is not just a matter of taking turns talking. It’s not just me telling you about my vacation, and then I stop talking so you can tell me about your vacation.
There’s no artistry in that. That’s just blabbing and it’s boring. When a dialogue reaches the stage of an art form I can tell you about my vacation and manage to weave you into it. That takes perspicacity, intimate knowledge of the other person, and the ability to to distill the universal essence of a human experience so that both speaker and listener feel that they have had the same experience.
Lately I have been reading research about how the over-reliance on texting is destroying the art of the conversation. I don’t know anything about that because I simply refuse to talk —at least for very long, to people who can’t hold a conversation, or who don’t know how to dialogue.
A good conversation involves timing, listening, weaving, and charming storytelling. If you have ever experienced one, you know that it is breath-taking in its effect. And you can’t wait to do it again.
I am lucky. I know some great conversational masters. I love it when I get to sit down with them and co-create, as I did today, a beautiful tapestry of connection.