I was faced with trying to explain to a teenager how to carry on a good conversation, since they were a chore to discuss with and saying “you suck at conversation” is completely unhelpful. The best I was able to come up with was self monitoring the following aspects while you are carrying on a conversation:
- Is the material something that both you and the other person value? Is it something that they can take action on, and they either need to take action on it or they will be enriched by taking action on? Be considerate of space in other people’s heads.
- Is the material something that would be equally enriching if you discussed it in two weeks or is urgent?
- Does the topic of the conversation involve denigrating other people? Avoid poisonous gossip.
- Is the conversation moving forward? Are you or the other person repeating yourselves or going around in circles?
- Are you feeling fatigued, overwhelmed, or bored? Does the other person seem fatigued, overwhelmed or bored?
- Are you avoiding Gottman’s “four horsemen” during the process? Are you expressing yourself using positive statements and ‘I’ statements and using the other antidotes.
- Humor takes the form of conversational gambits that bring up unexpected or surprising things in the conversation. Are you limiting yourself to gambits that keep the conversation within its current banks as opposed to derailing it for the sake of a joke?