What Is a Conversation?
Thank you for joining this class. My name is Jordan Thibodeau. I work for Google’s Mergers and Acquisition team and talk with authors, venture capitalists, world champion poker players, CEOs, billionaire hedge fund managers, and academics to learn what makes them successful. In my first class, “Building a Network for Success,” I focused on creating systems to build our social network. To solidify the bonds within our social network, we must also strengthen our ability to have engaging conversations. This course is a toolkit to help you find, start, and develop those engaging conversations.
About This Class
We all know people who have mastered the art of conversations. They know exactly what to say to others to get them to engage, but more importantly, they know how to listen. Why does it seem that some people can engage total strangers in a conversation, while others fumble for a single sentence? It depends on their ability to connect with others.
The goal of this class is to increase your ability to connect with people during conversations. If you have one more tool to connect with people, excellent. Mission accomplished. The class will not focus on one-liners and other inauthentic tricks because those never work. You must experiment with the tools in this course and see which ones fit your unique conversation style.
I want to share a few tools that have helped me with my conversation skills. By the end of this class, you will gain the following skills:
• six tools to improve your listening ability
• how to listen to what’s not being said in a conversation
• the importance of being uninformed
• how to experiment with your conversations
• the power of like, laugh, learn, and appreciate
• the importance of spreading joy through conversations
• how to deepen your relationships through conversations
• how to handle arguments
• knowing when to walk away from bad conversations
• learning the art of having a tough conversation
What Is a Conversation?
When you think of a conversation, you probably think it’s just two people talking to each other. Wrong! A conversation is more than that. A conversation is the syncing of two people’s realities to create a shared understanding between them. A good conversation allows you to jump into the other person’s reality, see things from their perspective, and develop a sense of empathy for them, which allows you to expand your understanding of how the world works. This creates a deeper and more rewarding relationship.
A Good Conversation Is Like a Game
In this game, each party to the conversation switches roles between listening and speaking. The goal of the game is to widen the channel of communication between both parties. The channel of communication is the implicitly agreed-upon range of acceptable topics for a conversation. By growing this channel of communication, the depth and impact of the conversation grows, leading to more information being traded between parties. A good conversation is a way to share information, express our feelings, learn from others, solidify personal bonds, provide us with a needed energy boost, and most importantly, give us a way to crystallize our thinking. This is not just based on an opinion: By looking at fMRI scans of two people engaged in a conversation, you will observe that their brain waves begin to sync as both parties develop a better understanding of each other, known as neural coupling. It’s almost as if two brains become one.
Technology Is Destroying Our Ability to Connect
In the olden days, if you didn’t like someone in your community, you still had to figure out a way to work with them. Even if you disagreed with their views, you still heard their views and recognized that there are different ways to perceive the world. In the short term, the exposure was unpleasant, but in the long term, you at least learned how to tolerate someone you disagreed with. At best, you would begin to empathize with their reality.
Due to technology, we find ourselves more connected to others than ever before, but unfortunately, most of these connections are tribal. We find our tribes, filter out people with whom we don’t want to speak, and lock ourselves into echo chambers. We’ve forgotten how to connect with others outside of our echo chambers. We know how to scream and shout at each other, but we don’t know how to talk to strangers or—heaven forbid—someone who disagrees with us. This class will teach you how to avoid this trap.
We Need Deep Conversations, Not Shallow Ones
We predominantly engage in shallow conversations that focus on minor chit-chat or throw-away gossip. Each time you meet someone, you have a special opportunity to have a deep conversation with that person: to hear about what they think, how their unique experiences influence their reality, and if you’re listening, what you can do to build a stronger bond with them. But most of the time, we aren’t listening to the other party, so our conversations are centered around ourselves. Sadly, this becomes an event where people talk around each other, but never truly connect. This class will teach you how to avoid the shallow and how to go deep in your conversations.
Reflecting on Your Conversations
Before we start our next lesson, you should take time to reflect on your previous conversations by creating a conversation journal (you can use one I created for you). By doing so, you will clarify what makes a good conversation compared to a bad one. Please save your answers. When you finish this course, you can see which tools you could have used to make those conversations even better.
1. Think of the last great conversation you had. What made it great? Whom was it with? Where did it take place? What emotions did you feel during the conversation?
2. Now think of the last bad conversation you had. What made it bad? Whom was it with? Where did it take place? What emotions did you feel during the conversation?
3. With both situations in mind, think of what you did in the great conversation that you could have done in the bad to have made the outcome better.
Tomorrow, we will learn about The Listener’s Toolbox.
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