How to Have Meaningful Conversations, and the Benefits of Doing So
Category: Healthy Living
Posted on July 14, 2021
Scott is passionate about health and wellness, and enjoys writing on various topic surrounding these fields. Scott lives in Seattle and spends his free time restoring old furniture and playing pickleball with his friends.
Social interaction is an integral part of being human. Research shows that our mental health is reliant on social connection and having a support network.
Part of making social connections is our ability to have good conversations. We've all been there at a business meeting or event and not had anything to say to someone we meet.
You can avoid those awkward moments of small talk or speaking to pass the time. You need to know how to have meaningful conversations.
Once you read our list of tips for meaningful conversation, you'll never want to run away from a terrible discussion about the weather or what you had for lunch ever again!
Why You Need Meaningful Conversation
A conversation that goes beyond surface-level is essential for our health and wellbeing. Connecting with others makes us feel accepted and understood. It makes us feel like we are not alone in this scary world.
Meaningful conversations are comforting and critical for growth and self-development. One of the many benefits of meaningful conversations is that you are more likely to learn something you didn't know.
If you have reflective conversations that aren't self-serving, you are more likely to feel fulfilled in life.
We need deep conversations for our long-term happiness. Higher wellbeing is scientifically shown to be associated with less time alone and more time having meaningful conversations.
How to Have Meaningful Conversations
Less time talking about pointless things, more time speaking with intention and finding meaning. Here's how to make conversation well:
1. Be a Good Listener
The first rule of any decent conversation is to listen. And we mean listen. Not just hear that the other person is talking, ready to go in with your next point.
Listen to the message the person is trying to convey to you. Why are they saying what they are saying? Try to reflect more on the point someone made rather than immediately reacting to them.
If you listen to understand, not just speak, you will find the quality of your conversations drastically improving. You will be fully present in discussions and give more thoughtful input.
2. Ask Thoughtful Questions
Why are you making conversation with someone? Is it because you want to tell them all about yourself? Or is it because you are genuinely interested in what they have to say?
You can only really get to know someone if you ask them questions about themselves. But it would help if you thought carefully about the questions you ask. It's easy to ask someone something basic like 'what's your favorite color,' but more challenging to ask 'what is it about this color that draws you to it'.
So instead of asking what your hobbies are, try asking what they like about those hobbies. Ask people what made them choose the job they have.
If you always remember to ask why it will drive more meaningful connection. It would help if you did this in a subtle way that doesn't seem creepy, though. Be thoughtful and intentional about the questions you ask.
Don't only ask questions because you think it will make you sound more interesting; ask questions because you are genuinely interested in the answers.
Ask questions that will elicit a more thought-through response too. If you ask things that require a yes or no answer, you will kill the conversation before it's started!
3. Be Yourself
People can spot a fake a mile off. If you want to have meaningful conversations and build connections, you need to be yourself.
You know how to be you; it doesn't take much effort. So don't try to pretend you are someone you are not or that you like things you don't like because you think it might impress someone you are talking to.
Share your honest opinions and thoughts; it will make you come across as much more authentic. Remember that nobody's opinion is more important than another.
People will like you for who you are, not for who you pretend to be. Not everyone needs to like you, and remember, that's completely ok.
4. Remember Points From Previous Conversations
A great way to build a strong connection with someone is to bring up topics you remember they have previously told you about.
If you remember, someone told you they love meditation and the benefits it has on their wellbeing. Bring that up in your following conversation; it shows you listened to what they had to say last time.
Did they tell you about a special event or someone special in their life? Ask how that person is doing. It shows you took the time to retain the information they shared with you.
5. Don't Waste Time
Don't have a conversation with someone for the sake of it. If you are trying to get something from the person or promote yourself, they will tell.
Wasting people's time because you want to use them for something won't help you build meaningful connections.
6. Make People Laugh
Having a sense of humor is a life skill. Being able to make people laugh boosts your attractiveness and improves your ability to be a leader.
Not only that, it is excellent for your mental health, increases the oxygen and blood flow in your body, and releases happy hormones. Who doesn't want to laugh!?
If you strike up a conversation with someone new, one of the best things you can do is make them laugh. Keep the joke appropriate to the situation and light.
Making someone laugh immediately makes them feel relaxed. Laughter even lights up the part of the brain that improves attention span and decision making.
Get practicing your jokes! Dad jokes aren't an approved way of making people laugh!
7. Read the Room
From the previous point, if you go into a room full of people discussing a serious topic, you can't start cracking jokes. It will come across as inappropriate and as if you haven't paid attention to the room's energy.
Reading the room's tone and understanding what people are expecting from a situation is another great life skill. Knowing when not to talk is just as important as knowing when you should speak up.
If someone tells you a close relative has died, you aren't going to start making jokes about death.
Observe the situation you are in and act appropriately. If you are attending a business meeting, you will not start connecting with people by telling them about your sex life.
Keep the conversation appropriate, and you will be able to seek out meaningful conversation.
8. Don't Boast About Yourself
People don't care what you have been up to. They love to talk about themselves. Given the opportunity, people will talk about themselves for hours; it's the topic they know the most about, after all!
So if you want to have better conversations, don't boast about your achievements. Your merits will naturally come up in conversation without you boasting about them.
Stay humble, and people will gravitate towards you. Nobody likes a know-it-all who loves themself a little too much.
9. Make People Feel Special
Another way to inspire exciting conversations and more profound connections is by making people feel special. If you can be genuinely happy for them and the things they have achieved, you will feel more connected to them.
Maybe the person has something you have always wanted, like their own business or a great investment portfolio. Being envious of people who have something you want won't help you have a good conversation.
Congratulate people on their achievements and see what you can learn from them about how they got to where they are today.
If you can show people how special they are, they will appreciate you.
10. Repeat Things They Say
As we already established, if you want to have great conversations, you need to be a good listener. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason, remember!
A great way to show you have genuinely listened and retained something someone has told you is if you can repeat what they say to you. Ask follow-up questions about something they told you about earlier.
If you repeat points made previously by your conversation partner, it will prove you are present and engaged in the discussion.
11. Let the Conversation Flow
Don't try to steer a conversation in a way that will serve you. Perhaps you want to tell someone something about yourself, so you try and send the conversation in that direction. Doing this won't help drive meaningful conversations.
Let the way you speak with someone flow naturally and take the course it needs to. You never know; you may be surprised about the direction you go in. You could end up learning something completely new you never thought you would discuss.
13. Find Common Ground
Another easy way to connect with people on less superficial levels is to find something you have in common.
Do you both have the same passions? Perhaps you both have children of a similar age? Maybe you have experienced similar hardships in life. If you can connect over a shared experience, you can quickly build a connection.
How to find out about common ground? By asking questions, of course.
14. Offer to Help
Showing genuine interest in someone's life and struggles helps you to build a deeper bond with them. One way to show you care is to offer help to someone if they need it.
We all want to find meaning in our lives, and offering service is a way to do this. If you can offer advice or support if someone is seeking it, you will become memorable.
Perhaps your conversation partner is looking for a new job, and you know someone recruiting in their field of work. Offer to make an introduction.
Remember, you can share your network with others, too; this will help them trust you and likely return the favor for you should you ever need it.
15. Don't Act Superior
People don't like being talked down to or looked down on. Don't think or act like you are better than anyone else.
Doing this is a surefire way to get people's backs up and not want to engage with what you have to say.
Think of everyone as equal. Job status, family status, wealth are all superficial measurements of importance in our society. We are all human, and the sooner we realize this, the kinder we behave towards others. The kinder you are, the more high-quality the conversations you have will become.
16. Be Empathetic
On the same train of thought as the last point, try to express empathy in your conversations. If you make people feel understood, you can build a great rapport with them.
Being empathetic doesn't mean you should make the conversation about yourself, though. You may feel like telling someone about a time you went through something similar is empathetic. It could make them feel like you don't care about them and want to talk about yourself.
For example, if someone is telling you about how stressed they are, listen carefully and offer meaningful advice.
17. Be Intentional With Your Body Language
Sometimes, you may be having a conversation and subconsciously doing something with your body language that doesn't match what you are saying.
People use their assessment of body language to make assumptions about us much more than you would think. It is our brain's way to make us feel safe and understand the person we are talking to.
Be aware of your body language and try to match it to your words. If you are trying to help someone open up to you, standing there with your arms crossed will not give the right message.
Start Having Better Conversations
Now you know all the advantages of meaningful conversation and how to have meaningful conversations, you can get started with giving more to your social interactions.
If you change the way you converse, it can improve your relationships with those you are close with and new acquaintances.
The most important thing to remember to have better quality chats? Be interested, not interesting!
Do you need more help and advice about wellbeing and your healthcare options? Get in touch with us today.