Meaningful discussions are a rarity in a world of quick blurbs and sound bites. If you want deeper discussions, there are some habits you can adopt to turn even small talk into a more significant conversation.
Meaningful conversations allow you to express yourself and learn about others. It can forge relationships and connect you to people you usually wouldn’t get to know. Having substantive conversations also gives you a greater sense of wellbeing compared to small talk. Small talk tends to make no difference in a person’s level of happiness, but it can lead up to more meaningful conversations. These conversations also help you build social connections. Adults who are socially connected experience better health and live longer than more isolated adults.
Here are twenty suggestions to facilitate more meaningful discussions in your life.
Try to adopt these behaviors to connect with people better.
1 – Take the conversation to a deeper level
When you’re in a conversation, you can move even the most mundane discussion to a deeper level, instilling a purpose. If you’re talking about someone’s kid’s sports team losing, you can say, “How did that make you feel as a parent to watch your kid lose a game?” Moving the conversation to their feelings moves the conversation to a deeper, more personal level. Some people may not want to talk about their feelings, but others will respond. You’ll soon know who enjoys deeper conversations and who doesn’t. You can’t force someone to speak on a deeper level, but you can help facilitate a more meaningful conversation.
2 – Don’t show off your knowledge
You would never do it intentionally, but if you know a lot about a topic, you may be tempted to talk too much about it. It’s easy to slip into this, especially if you’re excited about the subject. Try to avoid taking center stage. Allow the other person to contribute thoughts, even if they don’t know as much as you. Let them know that their opinions are important to you.
3 – Be a learner
Do you like to learn? Meaningful conversations are great places to learn things about people. You can ask them questions about their
As you learn about people, places, and things, your world grows a little bigger, and you’re a better conversationalist.
4 – Small talk has a purpose in meaningful discussions
You may dislike small talk and feel as if it’s not necessary. That could be true, but even small talk can lead to deeper conversations. Don’t sweat the small talk. It can help you get to know someone better. Over time, the conversations will go from small talk to more heartfelt discussions. It won’t happen overnight, but in time, the person will feel comfortable enough with you to begin to open up about their feelings.
5 – Lightweight opinions
Someone once said that opinions should be light as a feather, not heavy like a brick. It’s a good picture of how an opinion affects you. Even if you’re passionate about your idea, you can share it in a winsome, gracious way. If you hurl your thoughts at someone, good chance, it will kill the conversation.
6 – Be curious
Curious people wonder about things and people. Their curiosity gets them up in the morning because they see the world with a curious mind. They have an insatiable desire to understand. Interest will help you initiate conversations with people and be willing to go deeper with them. If you’re curious, you won’t be afraid to ask, “What is it like to do that in your world?” People enjoy talking about themselves, so let your curiosity open up an opportunity for someone to talk about themselves.
7 – Hold that thought
If you’re overly eager to share a thought, you aren’t focused on the speaker. You’re thinking about what you want to say. Even if you have a great idea, be patient and give the speaker time to finish their thoughts before jumping into the conversation.
8 – Maintain eye contact to effect more meaningful discussions
If possible, try to keep eye contact with the person you’re talking to. It helps them know that you’re interested in what they have to say. Eye contact is also a way to stay focused on what someone is saying. It’s hard to drift off if you’re looking right at a person.
9 – Stay focused
If your mind drifts off to where you put your car keys or what you’re eating for lunch, you’ll lose focus on the conversation. Try to pull your thoughts back into the present. Even in the most exciting discussion, you can get sidetracked, so try these ways to stay focused.
- Maintain eye contact
- Don’t shift around in your seat
- Lean forward in your chair
- Move to a closer seat to the person
- Turn off your phone
10 – Make it about them
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who talked endlessly about themselves? Some people are clueless about how they dominate a conversation. Showing an interest in the other person facilitates an exchange that isn’t one-sided. Ask open-ended questions about them. Or compliment them about something they’ve done or said. Show a sincere interest in them to fuel a two-sided conversation.
11 – Disagreements don’t need to shut down a conversation
If you want to have meaningful discussions, disagreements could happen. Don’t be afraid of disagreements. They don’t need to shut down your conversation. Ask questions to try to understand better what the person is saying. Share your thoughts, too, but you may want to say something that defuses the situations like this:
Well, this is just my opinion, but I think_________.
I could be wrong, but my opinion is that ____________.
This non-threatening approach can diffuse a heated discussion. The person sees you’re not out of a fight, just a good conversation about a tricky subject.
12. Ask good questions
Asking good questions encourages people to open up. Good questions include asking someone what they think or feel about a situation. It could be a mundane conversation, but bringing feelings into it will make the conversation go deeper.
13. Be aware of your surroundings
Don’t plunge into a deep conversation while sitting in the bleachers at your kids’ soccer game. It’s just the wrong place. Choose a calm atmosphere where you and the person you’re talking with can feel free to speak openly.
14. Read body language
A person’s body language is a good indicator of whether they’re engaged in a conversation. If the person is shifting in their seat or looking at their watch, it could signify they’re ready to finish up the discussion. Other non-verbal clues include
- Clearing their throat
- Eyes dropping down or look around
- Backing up
- Their voice goes up in pitch
If you notice this type of body language, you should end the conversation. Thank them for hanging out with you.
15 – Paraphrase their statement
One helpful tool for enhancing your conversations is to paraphrase back to the person what you think they said in your own words. It makes the person feel like you were listening to them. Plus, paraphrasing helps resolve misunderstandings. When you paraphrase back what someone said, you can say something like
- If I heard you correctly, you’re saying__________?
- Did I understand you correctly when you said______________?
- So are you saying_________?
16 – Give regular feedback
When you’re in the middle of a conversation, be sure to give regular feedback to encourage the other person you’re listening to. Say things to assure them that you understand, like:
- I agree
- That makes sense
17 – Don’t rush a meaningful discussion
Don’t rush your conversations. Share your thoughts in a slow, reflective way that allows your listeners time to absorb what you’re saying. Setting a calm atmosphere will also relax your listeners so they can share their thoughts without hurrying.
18 – Give specific well-thought compliments
Be sure to give well-thought, helpful compliments, and comments as the person talks with you. Please show them your listening by encouraging their line of reasoning on a topic or commenting on how well they’ve researched something. Your comments will build their confidence and help them feel like you understand them.
19 – Be that friend
There are those people who are just plain easy to talk to. They’re not only good listeners. They’re good at making people important because they encourage others to exchange ideas. They won’t judge but may push back thoughtfully. You can be that kind of friend to other people. Be the person that’s willing to talk on a deeper level. They make people feel accepted.