Friday, November 05, 2010

Good conversations make you happier, smarter, and healthier....

Today's Post: Friday, 11-5-2010

Two recent studies came out in just the last couple of days.

One found that positive and enjoyable conversations strengthened and exercised higher cognitive functions and decision making ability while adversarial ones did not.

Interactive conversations where the people conversing asked each other questions and were responsive to the thoughts and feelings expressed also seemed to help.

The other study found that people who talked about things that interested them personally or interested the person they were speaking with and who talked about important issues tended to be happier and more satisfied with life than people who only talked about less involving issues.

These two studies add to studies showing that people who have good social networks are less likely to get any kind of mental decline, have better health, handle stress better, and feel less stressed.

Other studies have found that people who actively socialize tend to be less likely to get or stay depressed.

And, other studies have found that even though conversation feels easy most of the time, it engages your brain and causes it to work hard as much as solving chess problems or complex academic or work problems.

It seems that people practice it so much from an early age, it feels easy. But you are actually far more skilled and work your brain far more to do it than most people can imagine.

This is clearly one of the reasons that conversations and a strong social network prevent mental decline.

Physical exercise is beneficial and needed to keep your brain in good shape too. But conversation has been shown to be a good direct workout for your brain to keep it in shape.

Here are some tips I’ve found useful for having good conversations.

(I’ve also credited the people I learned them from.)

1. I grew up from when I was born to about age 3 mostly living in my Mom’s home with my Mom, her parents, her grandfather, and her unmarried aunt.

Each of them was bright and liked to talk. They talked to each other when I was there watching. And, they talked to me.

That clearly has made it easier for me to converse with people than it is for many people as I learned the skills at a very young age much the same the way people learn their native language.

But, even if you didn’t grow up with a background like that, you can use the same method!

Just watch the people around you. From time to time you’ll find people who converse well, like to talk, who are clearly bright people, or who talk about things that interest you.

Look for such people. And, when you find them, talk to them and get to know them a bit. You’ll get practice conversing with people who are already good at it; you’ll automatically pick up some skills by seeing them in action; and you’ll acquire even more of the skills too as you do more of conversations with such people.

2. If you learn well from books and don’t hate sales or business, check out or better yet, buy a copy of David Schwartz’s book the Magic of Thinking Big.

It is sales and business oriented. And since it was written in the early to mid 1950’s some of the world he lived in and the examples he used are more than a bit dated.

But his book may be the single best book ever written on the strategy of meeting people, starting conversations, and having good things happen by “thinking right towards people.”

If you think of reasons why you like someone or respect their strengths or interests you share with them or those ways that you are alike and simply turn off or never turn on the reverse of these, your conversation with them and your relationship with them will be better. It will be dramatically better with some people and possible at all with others if you do this.

He learned these skills from his Mom. He found they worked well in business and when he used them he got good results. He also saw how badly things went for people who didn’t use them or know them – and for those who did the reverse instead!

If you read his book and practice his skills as I have, you’ll be able to meet people well most of the time and converse well.

3. Social scientists also have found that asking people questions, particularly about things that interest them, being quickly responsive to what they say, and making encouraging sounds or rewarding remarks are very powerful skills.

Comments such as: “Oh really!” “Hmmn” “OK” “Got it.” “Exactly right.” and “Precisely so.” are very brief but enormously powerful. Learn to use them well and you will benefit in dozens of ways.

Saying something brief in a friendly way and then asking them a related and short question in a friendly way that they need to think about a bit to answer and cannot be answered yes or no is also very involving. How do you handle that? What are your views on that? and similar questions are not long to ask and if you volunteer something first and are friendly in how you ask, you usually get a good response.

I even met a man once who taught me something very valuable.

What if you run across someone you remember and even liked but you have totally forgotten their name?

Here’s what he did: As soon as he saw me, he smiled and said, “It’s really good to see you again.”

By starting on this positive note, our conversation went well and he was able to learn why I was there to see him and to re-learn my name without any strain or effort.

4. Learn what things you converse well with the people you speak to and what things don’t seem to work. Value them and enjoy speaking to them for those things. But see them less if they ask for more than you are comfortable with. And, forgive them and don’t push it, if you find they are uncomfortable with some things you’d like more of from them that don’t work for them.

The writer who goes by the pen name Michael Masterson wrote an essay on this. He found that he has many kinds of friends and when both he and they did this, the conversation and the friendship went well even if it only had certain areas where it went well. But if either he or his friend asked for things the other was not comfortable with and persisted, it tended to end the conversation and the friendship.

The key thing to remember is that positive conversations on subjects you or the person you are speaking with like or think important will make you smarter, happier, and healthier.

And, the more often you do this, the better at it you get and the better it works.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home