holidays

Holidays; Dazzle them in conversation

Holidays are here and lots of parties are around the corner. What makes someone boring at at a gathering? Boredom means that you have to force yourself to pay attention. Most people, of course, aren’t dreadfully boring. We want to dazzle others in conversation. It’s time to tune up our small talk.

Holidays; curb your complaints

In the 1980s, a study by Mark Leary, a professor at Duke University, explored exactly what people perceive as a “boring” personality. At the top of that list was continually complaining about your problems.

Everyone needs to let off steam occasionally. But be sensitive to the situation. Close friends would understand if you needed to confide in them about a challenge. However, your airplane seat mate might find you incredibly dull after 20 minutes of venting about your evil boss.

Holidays are not a time to complain. It’s a time of celebration and hope. Confide in others in a one and one situation and rarely at a social gathering.

Ask follow-up questions

One of the most common complaints people have after a conversation is that the other person didn’t ask enough questions, says Alison Wood Brooks, an associate professor at Harvard Business School. People love talking about themselves and feel good when others show interest. So why do we shy away from asking questions? Our understanding of question asking may be broken. Many people feel that by asking a question they’ll come across as nosy or rude, especially on a more sensitive topic. “We overestimate how intrusive our questions will be,” Brooks says.

If people enjoy being asked questions, they love being asked follow-up questions. One study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2017, followed speed daters and found that asking just one more follow-up question in each meeting led to an additional date.

To ask good follow-up questions, just listen closely and be curious. Avoid peppering someone with surface-level questions (“Where are you from?” “What do you do?”). Instead, after the first question (“Where are you from?”) probe their answer to learn more (“Did you like growing up there?” What was that like?”). “It’s this behavioral demonstration that you’re listening to them and want to know more,” Brooks says. “That’s how everyone wants to feel.”

Change the Topic

During the holidays, hopping to a new topic more quickly than you might think polite can prevent a subject from going stale and move the conversation forward. Research showed that the participants in that research learned to shift topics easily and they responded to cues of lost interest, like periods of mutual silence, more quickly. Most important thing, both individuals enjoyed the conversation more.

People may linger on topics for longer than necessary to be polite, Brooks says. They don’t want to offend the person who brought up the topic or come across as rude or abrupt. But people often feel a sense of relief when someone proposes a new topic, especially if the conversation has stagnated.

“There’s a misconception that staying on a topic for a long time leads to greater depth, but we find that it’s not true,” Brooks says. “You squeeze out all the good stuff pretty quickly.”

This mirrors the experience of clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg. When patients struggle to make or sustain relationships, one of the tips she provides is to look for hints that a topic is played out-like if listeners look away, become quiet, or glance at their phones. “Pay attention and people will give you clear cues,” Greenberg says.

Convey interest with body language

Don’t flatten a conversation with a muted response. When the person you’re speaking with doesn’t react to you, either positively or negatively, it conveys that they’re not invested in the conversation, Leary says. This response can make it hard for you to pay attention as well.

Some people may not be naturally effusive. Or, they may have been raised in an environment that discouraged emotional reactions. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you feel nervous abut sustaining a conversation or making a good impression, you can proactively nod, smile, and maintain eye contact so that the other person feels acknowledged and engaged.

That also means setting aside distractions to be fully present. Put your phone away and look at the person. That sounds so basic, but it’s not anymore.

Humor

Laughter can make any conversation more delightful. Not only does it make conversations more fun, but it can also help us cope with difficult experiences, deflect uncomfortable questions, and boost group cohesion. Funny people are seen as having a higher status than people who don’t crack jokes, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. So if you’re naturally funny, don’t be afraid to let your sense of humor shine.

Be vulnerable

Revealing vulnerability can lead others to view you more positively.  Researchers found that revealing failures on the path to success reduced listeners’ feelings of jealousy. When entrepreneurs did the same, it reduced jealousy and instilled inspiration to strive toward success. The results were published this year in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

The reason may be that people are intimately familiar with their own shortcomings but often aren’t aware of others’ imperfections. People are more likely to share positive information about themselves, which gives the impression that others succeed more frequently than they really do. Hearing abut those difficult moments can provide relief and help people feel less alone.

Sharing your vulnerable side may be especially refreshing today in the social media age. Everybody is trying to convey this perfect image online, but behind the scenes, everyone’s life is actually problematic. Being vulnerable can actually draw people closer to you. People don’t love you because you are a successful attorney. People love you for how you make them feel when you are around them.

Storytelling and holidays

People love stories; they’re relatable, entertaining, and others can chime in with similar tales. If you’ve noticed that your friends or colleagues particularly enjoy one of your stories, keep that anecdote on hand for the future. Telling a crazy family story is always a winner. Everybody’s family tends to regress and act a little silly. We all know that holidays are a great time for family stories to come to fruition. Put those stories in your back pocket for your next social gathering.