Conversation Hooks

14.02.2019 |

Episode #6 of the course Mastering your conversations by Jordan Thibodeau


“Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Welcome back!

Yesterday, we learned about the importance of conversation experiments. But some of you might be afraid of beginning a conversation. Today, we are going to learn about the implicit signals people share with you that provide an opening for a conversation.


Conversation Openers

Much time is spent on trying to figure out the perfect thing to say to open a conversation. You can find numerous books and classes on what questions to memorize to begin conversations. All the time spent memorizing openers is a waste. When you use these canned openers, you will be perceived as inauthentic. To make things worse, you won’t know what to say after the conversation opener.


There’s No Magic Trick for Starting Conversations

Each conversation is unique, and there’s no rulebook on how to start them. You need to incorporate who the person is, where you both are, and what might be happening around you into your conversation in order for it to be successful. But if you don’t know anything about the person, where do you begin?


A Bombardier Jacket and a Great Conversation

One day at work, I came across a person wearing a brown jacket that looked similar to my grandpa’s World War II bombardier jacket. I decided to bring this up to the person who was wearing it. Ten minutes later, the conversation went from bombardier jackets to his family’s antique weapon collection and finally, how he was part of a special task force that oversaw the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Whoa. What happened here?


Conversation Hooks

Like it or not, people perceive you based on your actions and what you wear. What you wear sends signals to people how you’re feeling, what you care about, and how seriously you take yourself. Your actions indicate what’s important to you and what you’re trying to obtain. A conversation hook can be any object or action that provides you with a slight tell about the person, which makes it easier to start a conversation.

Examples of conversation hooks:

• a t-shirt or sweater with your favorite band on it

• your cellphone with a decorative Star Wars case

• the book or magazine you took to the coffee shop

Conversation hooks serve as indicators to others what you’re interested in, making it easier to start a conversation. By showing off your interests, you make yourself more approachable and easier to talk to. The conversation hook provides the much-needed commonality that allows the conversation to take place.


Using a Conversation Hook

Now that you have spotted someone with a conversation hook, it’s time to start a conversation. Take the conversation hook, and use it as the initial opener to the person: “Hey, I see you like Star Wars, what did you think about The Last Jedi?” “You’re reading Lord of The Rings? What did you think about the battle of Helm’s Deep?” These are all simple examples, but there’s no right way of doing it. The only wrong way is not acting upon the conversation hooks you see.


Conversation Hooks Are Tribal

Not only do conversation hooks represent what you like, but they also indicate what tribe you belong to. Like it or not, we are a very tribal species. We look favorably upon those who are part of our tribe and are more willing to cooperate with tribemates than non-tribe members. If someone indicates that they are part of your tribe, it means:

1. You are inclined to like the person because they are similar to you.

2. You have a common interest you can talk about.

3. You now have a channel of communication to get the conversation going.


To Do:

1. The next time you see someone, see how many conversations hooks you can spot.

2. What do the conversation hooks tell you about the person?

3. Try to use the conversation hooks to start a conversation.

Tomorrow, we will learn about the power of like, laugh, learn, and appreciate.

Jordan Thibodeau

Conversation Mentor


Recommended book

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen


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