This article delves into the art of engaging conversations and provides insights on how to create a comfortable environment for conversations to take place, including tips on how to initiate conversation starters and prolong conversations
The Relationship Between Comfort and Attention
As you begin to read this article, your attention climbs into the cold bed that is this page. At this point, your focus is easy to divert. A loud sound can shift your gaze away from this sentence, and a bright flash can do the trick as well. Your seat may not be as comfortable as it can be, and your elbow may not be resting in its proper reading position. You shift your bum, and move your elbow. Now it’s better; now you’re set.
As the bed warms up, it’s harder to get you out of it. Your mind’s connection to this article strengthens, and now, it’s harder to divert your focus away. You’re well on your way to something that resembles a flow state at this point. You’ve focused your attentive powers on the words you’re reading now.
Cultivating fruitful conversations with others is similar to establishing a high bandwidth channel of focus or attention. It not only takes some time and comfort to give birth to quality conversations, it always takes some willful ignorance on your part too.
Up to this point, you’ve ignored the fact that your sock may not properly be on, or that your bed may be a better place than your desk to read on. Perhaps it’s not worth stopping to read and walking to the bedroom. In an effort to preserve continuity in what you focus on, sometimes you can willfully ignore your bed until you’re done reading a short piece such as this. Other times, you can’t.
Fruitful conversations can’t be had while your leg is falling asleep, or when there are cars whizzing by eerily close to where you’re having a conversation. When speaking with others, keep tabs on how comfortable they are. Is the environment around you conducive to fruitful conversations? Is your counterpart worried that others may hear the sensitive information your conversation is about?
When thinking about comfort, place high priority on the people whom you’re speaking with. Since you’re the one who’ll know to focus on this detail, take the lead in guiding the conversation toward a setting in which your counterpart is comfortable.
Comfort is a simple thing to get right, but a difficult one to master. The hospitality industry exists in part, as an effort to master comfort. There are five star hotels which are outshined by seven star luxury resorts. Become a hospitable host of conversations.
Be sure to offer others a seat, a drink, or a better place to talk. Be on a constant lookout for how to make the setting of conversations more comfortable for the people you’re talking with.
Social / Emotional Comfort
Physical comfort is rather simple to analyze and improve. The evidence in that case, would mostly be in the physical world in front of you to analyze. Tuning your analysis to see your counterpart’s level of social comfort takes a much more astute eye. It would be unrealistic for this article to attempt and make you a master at making people feel socially / emotionally comfortable around you, however, there is one overarching principle you can remember which will result in tangible differences.
A potent cause of social / emotional discomfort, is our anxiety about our authentic acts not being enough for others’ collective gaze. When we don’t quite know someone extensively, we’re wary of showing that person the depths of our personality. What if our joke offends them? What if our political opinion pushes them away? Can they see how old my sweater really is from that close? Can they sense that I cried my eyes out last night?
The worries / anxieties running through your counterpart’s mind will be continuous and constant. Their numerous worries can be comforted however, if you choose to adopt a sense of willful ignorance toward some of their, perhaps off putting, behaviors.
Being willfully ignorant of some facets of the individual you’re speaking with will center on ignoring the things that may bring the fruitful conversation to a stop. In an effort to keep building onto the conversation that you’re having with a person, it wouldn’t make sense to be drastically offended by an innocent joke they say, for instance.
If you have the quality of conversation as a primary goal in your mind, then picking at the other’s imperfections should take a back seat. People will misspeak, they’ll show colors of their personality which you may not like, and they’ll hint at having opinions with which you disagree. Know when to ignore those things for the sake of continuing conversation.
By noticing their imperfections, you’ve already done your job. You can further analyze, and learn from them. By focusing on those imperfections and directing the conversation toward those things however, you make the mistake of letting the individual know your opinion of their certain imperfections.
You’ll place them back on their heels, and will encourage a series of defensive rebuttals to come your way. The quality of conversation becomes at risk of falling through when you do that, as not all are able to work out the kinks and continue onward. Some people will be taken back by your act of picking at their joke, opinion, or sweater’s age, and the conversation will not recover.
The most fruitful conversations, are those which are perceived to be as such. The feeling you give birth to in the person you’re speaking with is perhaps more important than ironing out their wrinkled opinion or knowledge. By making them feel comfortable with their insecurities, and ensuring that they feel wholly accepted by you, they’ll feel as though your conversation with them was a good one.