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Stop Being So Boring! A Simple Way to Have Better Conversations and Relationships

If you want to be heard, to be in the moment with someone, and connect with others then you must break out of slipstream conversations and interrupt expectations. That means ditch the boring and expected chitchat in favor of compelling relationship-building dialogues.
08/04/2015 02:43pm ET | Updated August 4, 2016
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If you want to be heard, to be in the moment with someone, and connect with others then you must break out of slipstream conversations and interrupt expectations. That means ditch the boring and expected chitchat in favor of compelling relationship-building dialogues.

A friend would ask me for the time. My first response was always the same: "It's the time of our lives." That would elicit a momentary blank stare from my mate as his brain processed my unexpected response. Then he would smile, and ask the question again. "You guess the time," I would next playfully demand. In the end, I would say if he was right.

How often do you ask a question and, like my friend, not be actively listening for the response? It may be asking the time, how someone is or directions and you have to ask again and you didn't hear the answer.

This is not a matter of an imperfect auditory pathway; it's a matter of an imperfect interaction process.

The way we communicate is changing. It's become rapid, fast, and extremely transactional, the result of how our interactions have adapted to our modern lifestyles and it's influence it had on our conversations. We've become transactional in our busyness, in our texts, and in our tweets. It's also spilled over into how we want things completed. Quickly. No process. Now.

Every day we lock into habitual conversations, we ask questions and get answers as part of routine interactions that add little, if anything, to our relationships. Think about what could happen if you actually asked better questions.

When a child or partner comes home from school or work, the oft-mumbled question is, "How was your day?" The (non) response in turn is a flat-lined "fine." #zeroconnection Consider instead the benefits if you asked, "What are the three best things that happened to you today?" Try it, and watch what happens. Chances are his or her face will light up and a real conversation will ensue.

This is a question that does something, and it gets something in return. This is actually an interaction, an approach to encourage thought, discourse and most of all, a level of caring. In contrast, boring and tired questions like "what time is it" or "how was your day" are little more than polite noise that our auditory cortex simply filters out. Most of us have experienced the ask-the-vanilla question-that-has-to-be-repeated and we still don't hear the answers. It's like our brains are saying, "OK, the next noise you hear isn't going to be important." We might as well all be walking around in mini anechoic chambers, as we aren't getting much else in our interactions.

I'm not advocating that everything you say has to have an element of surprise or that every sentence needs to finish with the word avocado or some such gibberish to get people's attention. That's obnoxious. But, when you need to connect, do it! Use your language. Ask dynamic questions. Looking around most rooms of people these days it's easy to see that we need more present conversations.

Using real language and enjoying it does more than avoid boredom, it actually provokes the pleasure centre region in the brain; the nucleus accumbens fires up from the engaged interaction, with results in having a heightened awareness, alertness, and concentration. Your convo-partner then focuses on what you're saying, and thanks to a shot of the brain chemicals dopamine and noradrenaline, it's highly likely that person won't be able to stop thinking about how much they enjoy being around you (hint hint for the single and sales people) #brainbonus

Having these kinds of remarkable conversations with others doesn't take any more effort, and certainly doesn't have to take any extra time. It's simply about breaking those old and boring habits.

Dale Carnegie in his awesome book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" talks about the "human conduct rule," which says make people you meet feel important. But, surely that's hard to do in our busy, transactional, fast environment we live in yes? No, nope, no. Stop being BORING! #zzzzzzzzzzzz *brain plays white noise*

I run training sessions twice a year with a large multi-national organization teaching new recruits how to protect their online reputations. Several years ago during a session, I met one of their team members who took their job very seriously. She worked in the kitchen serving refreshments during breaks but spent most of her time making sure the tea bags are perfectly stacked and not a coffee grain out of place.

During a break from training, I watched as the trainees casually and clumsily helped themselves to the tea and coffee, with each tea bag touched the tension in this woman began to rise, by the end of the que her station was a mess and she was furious at the disrespect (the trainees none the wiser). Bravely I then walked over to the tea station. As the angry woman filled my cup I said, "You're the happiness maker." She looked startled that I had even started a conversation with her. Up to now, others in the training session had dismissed her presence and her job. I pushed on and said, "Anyone that gives people caffeine is the happiness maker."

I was consciously making an effort to truly engage in conversation with this employee and it made a difference. The woman's disposition immediately changed, softened, and she smiled. "I like making people happy," she said.

I'm only at the company every six months and then just briefly. But, three years later every time I'm there, unfailingly, the same woman makes a special trip to my training room to bring me my tea, and always smiles and asks, "Am I making you happy today?" My response is, " "You are making everyone happy."

It doesn't take any extra time to respond with the purpose of trying to make a connection, being conscious with what I said to this other human in front of me. It did not take me much more effort to say this, rather than the boring polite noise of saying, "thanks for my tea." But what it did do was change the dynamic of our interaction and into an actual relationship that we both enjoy.

Another example of how quickly you can make this winning connection with someone is what a cousin of mine does. I only see him occasionally but whenever I do, I know it will be fun. That's because he recognizes the importance of conversations as they relate to interactions and relationships. For example, when someone asks how he's doing, he responds, "My lawyer says I don't have to answer that question." It's always fun to see a new person's reaction. It just sets up the rest of the time together, true human connection and a good time, and isn't that what it's all about?

Think about how this simple approach to conversation would make a difference in relationships you have with other people in the workplace, networking events, social functions, at the bar, at home and even in a tweet.

So if you don't want to sound like Charlie Brown's #blahblahblah teacher to others then break the habit of slipstream conversations, engage your human connection consciousness and brain cognition to enjoy the people in your life and what it can mean to you to have real interaction.

#stopbeingboring