The Networker #55: 4 Ways To Improve Your Conversations

Read time: 3 minutes & 22 seconds

When someone recommends a book to me, I don’t rush to buy it right away.

Here’s what I do.

Search for the author on Spotify to find podcasts they’ve appeared on.

What you find is they’ve done a round of interviews to promote the book, and usually cover the book’s core themes.

I’ll listen to a 2 or 3 and if I enjoy them and want to dive deeper, I’ll buy the book and commit the hours to reading it.

This life hack has saved me hours.

You’re welcome.

This week’s subject has been David Brooks, a writer for the New York Times, the Atlantic, and author of many books.

With his latest release, How to Know a Person, piquing my interest following a recommendation.

Where David explores the keys to fostering deeper connections at home, at work, and throughout our lives.

So this week I’ve listened to over 5 hours of interviews with David.

And unpack 4 of David’s keys to meaningful conversation in today’s edition.

What I love about David’s theories is that they are not groundbreaking ideas.

We’ve all heard the ‘people love to be heard’. Be an active listener. Ask good questions.

But David makes them memorable.

Here are some of my favourites.

Treat attention like a on/off switch.

Don’t treat it like a dimmer.

When you’re interacting with someone, it should be 0% or 100%.

Don’t try and 60% it.

And have 40% of your attention either on your phone or doing something else.

Or in networking terms, think of it this way.

Don’t be half in the conversation, with the other half thinking who you want to speak to next, or thinking what you want to say.

Be present and be in the conversation.

Don’t be a topper.

This happens when someone references something and you immediately spin it to make it about you.

Or even worse – try and top their story.

In networking, this might be if:

  • Someone experienced dreadful traffic getting to the event – and you share how you were in even worse traffic.
  • Or they talk about a new client they’ve won – and you go on to say about the new ones you’ve won.
  • Or how they’ve hired a new member of staff – you say you’ve done that too.

I get that you may do this to empathise by offering a shared experience, or even making them feel heard.

But what you’re saying is; that’s enough speaking about you, let’s talk about me.

Be a ‘loud listener’.

This can be through words acknowledging what the other person is saying.

Or with your facial expression.

Others love to speak to loud listeners.

It makes them feel heard.

Use questions to unlock new levels of connection.

When you ask questions you’re showing curiosity.

But you’re also showing respect.

I’ve shared 6 questions that will help kick off a conversation.

But David introduced to me another way of thinking about questions.

With there being levels to your questions based on the level of trust and connection you have with the other person.

Or asking certain questions to unlock new levels of connection.

For example:

Level 1

  • What do you do?
  • What are you currently working on?

Level 2

  • What are you most excited about at the moment?
  • What challenges do you have coming down the line?

Level 3

  • If we were to meet 1 year from now, what would we be celebrating?
  • What crossroads are you at right now in your business?

As you get to know someone better and build on the relationship, think of unlocking new levels with the questions you ask.

David talks about unlocking ‘narrative mode’ in others when you meet them.

Get others sharing stories.

That’s what’s going to make for better conversation and deeper connection.

It starts with better questions.

The Wrap Up 

Negative networking experiences typically stemming from a poor standard of conversations.

I always say it’s on you as the networker to make the conversations better.

David’s 4 principles will help you start doing that:

  1. Treat attention like an on/off switch – not a dimmer.
  2. Don’t be a topper.
  3. Be a ‘loud listener’.
  4. Use better questions to unlock new levels of connection.

It’s about making people feel heard, seen and understood.

We’re not as good at listening as we think.

We’re not as empathetic as we think.

And we can work to be better.

Thankfully, I know you’re doing just that, as you’re reading this.

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