Recently I’m traveling a little more than usual: two trips to Japan just this year, one to California, and quite a few in Europe… so I get to meet people on the planes. What I found out is that I need to actively engage more in conversations with strangers than I used to… and I can learn a lot from them.
I’m a talkative person
I talk a lot and fast. Whether it’s in my mother tongue Polish, English, Spanish or German… I talk a lot. And I like talking… and as with folks like me, we need to learn to listen. I found that recent traveling has been a great exercise for me to do just that - listen to people.
It’s so easy to talk about yourself
With so much stuff on my plate recently I have a lot to talk about… but I found out that when I actively shift the conversation to asking good questions the person I’m talking to, I can learn a lot. Interesting, huh?
When people ask me what I do, I used to go on and on about my app, the magazine and other stuff… and now I just explain briefly and ask a question back. Curiously enough, the person next to me is happy to talk about themselves.
Actively remembering to ask question
It sounds strange, but I found out that when I talk for more than one minute I realize it’s not what I should be doing… and I quickly try to finish my line of thought and ask a question. It’s actually not that easy to ask good questions, but I do try to practice.
I try to avoid subjects like: weather (although you can start with that, the subject will dry out soon) or politics, but anything else is good. Especially to find out what the other person is passionate about.
To learn from passion
My best conversations have been when I managed to ask the right questions to find out what the other person was passionate about. From there it’s really easy - the conversation flows naturally and you learn a lot of new things. As I wrote before, passion attracts passion. If I just talked about myself all the time I’d miss that.
Actively asking questions and directing conversation is not easy.
Especially for a talkative person like me. But it’s do-able and it’s fun. Especially if you end up listening to someone very passionate about their thing. Again, leading a good conversation is a skill and I’m learning through exercise. I recommend it to you, too.
Do you converse with people easily? Do you ask questions? What did you learn lately from a stranger met while traveling?