Asking thoughtful questions

As a kid, I haven’t felt I earned a place in adult conversations. Also, I didn’t care to partake. Most adult conversations were not interesting to me. But I learned to pay attention. Nobody is born socially apt and knowledgeable. Some of us are more gifted, or charming, or are naturally good listeners. Or maybe our face is open and inviting. 

People want to be known. Most people blossom when they are seen, known, because that’s a first step to being loved. 

I have had the most unusual people confide in me, strangers really, customers, acquaintances. But they took the step to share themselves driven by something deeper than my invitation to know them better. 

There is one instance I recall, when I was visiting a team of colleagues in another location. They were a bunch of guys, who took me out to lunch but seemed distracted, uninterested in who I was and what I came to do. It was a business visit, but my colleagues weee not enchanted; I had been accustomed to friendlier people than these young guys. It was a familiar scene from my youth I thought. As we were waiting for our food someone mentioned they found a vintage car they wanted to buy and restore. And I asked a discreet follow up question. They answered monosyllabic. We let the conversation breath and then I asked a more intelligent question but still pertaining to their evident interest. As I listened to them I saw them change. Come alive. And it dawned on me. They were just people. Maybe tired. Maybe burdened. Their disposition had nothing to do with me. But their mood change was affected by my active listening. By the end of the day they were helpful to my work experience and kind and engaged. 

My two cents for being a great conversationalist: listen well, ask nonthreatening, noninvasive, good questions that build on what is already being shared. Practice makes perfect. Be brave in sharing you opinion. But remember that Not every opinions needs to be shared.