Robin Dreeke, a former Marine Corps officer and FBI special agent, writes about how to build quick rapport and have meaningful conversations with anyone you meet in It’s Not All About Me.
This short book is packed with many tips for conversing with strangers, co-workers and family members. Dreeke admits that many of his tips are not novel or groundbreaking. It’s amazing how many people are incapable of following even a few of these tips and carry on meaningful conversations.
I have little patience for people who can’t carry on good conversations. Braggers, uninteresting people, small-talkers who never get beyond conversations about the weather and worst of all, monologuers.
Monologuers never stop talking. Mainly, they never stop talking about themselves. They repeat stories, don’t ask questions and fill every moment of silence with talking.
Dreeke’s main principle behind his 10 techniques is to remember that “it’s not all about me”. Ultimately, he’s saying that humility, thinking and caring more about others than yourself, is at the root of all good conversations.
While Dreeke’s techniques can be used at anytime, he focuses on how to approach strangers and have meaningful conversations with them.
Technique 1: Establish Artificial Time Constraints
You lower people’s perception of a threat by letting them know that you’re about to leave or on your way out. No one wants to be bothered by a stranger who wants to launch into a never-ending discussion. You’re more likely to have a meaningful, and sometimes even long, conversation if you start by establishing a time constraint and letting the other person know that you’re not about to settle in for a conversation that may never end.
Technique 2: Accommodating Nonverbals
This technique is all about your body language. Smiling makes you appear friendly and non-threatening. Tilting your head slightly communicates trust. Lowering your chin angle also makes you appear less threatening.
Technique 3: Slower Rate of Speech
People who speak slowly and clearly sound more credible than those who speak very quickly.
Technique 4: Sympathy or Assistance
If you approach a stranger, you may have better luck if you ask them for a small favor like an opinion on something in order to open up the conversation.
Technique 5: Ego Suspension
“Suspending your ego is nothing more complex than putting other individuals’ wants, needs, and perceptions of reality ahead of your own.”
Dreeke goes on to discuss how most times when two people are having a conversation, one patiently waits for the other to finish his story so that he can tell his own story on a related subject. Often it’s in an attempt to tell a better, more interesting story. [Guilty as charged…I definitely do this.]
As you can imagine, this doesn’t facilitate a good conversation. If you’re so focused on yourself and what you’re going to say next, you aren’t thinking about what the other person is saying. The better way to engage is to encourage the other person to continue telling their story by asking questions and actively listening.
“Those individuals who allow others to continue talking without taking their own turn are generally regarded as the best conversationalists.”
Technique 6: Validate Others
Validate others by:
-Listening to what they have to say. You aren’t there to interject your own ideas, thoughts and stories, but to simply listen to the other person.
-Validating the other person’s thoughts and opinions
**Technique 7: Ask…How, Why, When?“
Thread the conversation by asking open ended questions that require more than a yes/no answer.
Use reflective questions to restate what the other person just said in the form of a question. This compels the other person to elaborate more.
Technique 8: Connect with Quid Pro Quo
Give a little information about yourself in order to connect and encourage the other person to share about themselves.
Technique 9: Gift Giving
Find ways to give small gifts, even gum or mints or hand sanitizer, as a way of opening up the conversation. People feel compelled to reciprocate when they receive a gift.
Technique 10: Manage Expectations
All conversations have an agenda. If you manage expectations before a conversation and ensure that it will be for the benefit of the other person, you will have greater success.
“The main objective in all engagements is simple; the person you are engaging must leave the conversation and interaction feeling better for having met you.”
This book was a quick read, but a great reminder of how to focus on others to create more meaningful conversations.