Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Starting meaningful conversations Q & A

I've been getting emails about one of my articles called Start Meaningful Conversations. I've posted the email and my response.

"I understand that we are supposed to meet people in the middle with our comments and converstions. But what if I am talking to a person, and given the topic of the coversation, I oppose everything they say. For example I feel that child pornography is a morally reprehensible act and should be punnishable by death. The Iraq war is unnecessary, the global warming crisis isn't all that much of a crisis. So in a conversation pertaining to those things, how would I meet the person in the middle if my views are too polar?

How do I convey a sense of my moral values to the other person, without much negativity being induced into the conversation? This is only if I strongly disagree with the person I am talking to. I have thought about this question alot myself. Only way I seem to handle it is to agree with everything they say all the time.

Also if a conversation is about a subject that I do not know much about, say soccer, home improvement, computers, gardening, I find my friends knowing much more about a it, than i do. How do I converse with them meaningfully without having them think I am a total neophyte in that subject? I would love to have your opinion on that question to geared toward friends I already have and say some stranger who I start talking to.

If there is a subject that comes up in a converstion, such as death of a close relative, that I am uncomfortale talking about how do I answer it?

If i meet a person that is usually shy, and reserved, how do I spark a meaningful conversation with them? What are examples of things I could say? I am not talking about killing the spontaniety by preparing in advance, yet sometimes examples convey a sense of thinking that you could have. I have been told that obeservations around you, such as, "this room is too cold", or , "thats a nice dress" are examples, but when I do those things it seems too much like I am trying to converse with them, which turns them away from me.

Thank you for your time,"

I am a strong believer that a person should stick by their convictions. When meeting someone new, you are essentially trying to learn more about that person while you slowly reveal things about yourself to that person. Such extreme topics such as child porn shouldn't really be a topic of conversation for two reasons. One, it is a negative topic that evokes negative emotions. Two, if you don't know that person well enough, you may strike a nerve. The way I stick by my convictions when someone opposes them is to find a way to tell them you disagree. Then, in a few words, tell them why. Most people will bring up another point. That’s when I decide whether it is worth getting into a debate or not. Ultimately, a debate is what will eventually happen if the situation is not handled correctly.

My decisions are based upon where I am and who I am conversing with. Once you become accustomed to dealing with different types of people, you will begin to understand how better appeal to a person's sense of logic or how to appeal to their emotions. Depending on who that person is, you can direct your response to appeal to what you have learned about them through your conversation. I tend to stay away from disagreement when I first meet a person. I state my point and then move on to something else. If that person persist and is determined pick a "fight", then it is time to find someone else to talk to and here is why.

If a person is trying to push all of these serious issues down your throat, then they are not interested in building a relationship or friendship, they are interested in being right. If I strongly disagree with someone I usually preface my statement with some information about myself so they can understand where I am coming from and add some credibility to my point. If you stand by your conviction, then they are not going to change your mind and you are not going to change their mind. I've been in this situation plenty of times so I've learned to pick my battles. Sometimes you make a friend that respects your opinion and other times you will end up wasting 30mins because nothing gets resolved by the debate. But I almost never agree with someone if I really disagree with them. But I’ve known people who prefer to make a point rather than make a friend. I make friends first then express my viewpoints because I think they are more likely to listen to the viewpoints of a friend as opposed to a stranger they just met.
When you are talking to someone about a topic that you know nothing about, then this is a perfect time to learn. If you are talking one on one with someone then ask questions about the topic so that you can learn about it. If you are in a group, then listen to the conversation and try to pick up as much as you can. I am not a baseball fan at all but I can hold a decent conversation about what is currently going on because I have friends that talk about baseball and I listen. Then I bring what I've heard to other conversations and I usually ask other people what their opinions are on what I've learned from my friends. If you have friends that like soccer and you know nothing about it, then glance at the sports section or ESPN.com and read a little short piece on what is going on in the soccer world. It shouldn't take more than ten minutes but it is amazing what it can do.

As far as what to say, I've found that people will talk to you if you talk to them. Observations are best but how genuine they are and how they are presented may affect the person's reaction. What I mean is if you mention that it is cold, what do you follow it up with if the person says ' yeah a little'? The same thing is true if you say someone has a nice dress. Do you really like her dress? If so your follow-up will come naturally. If not you’re stuck. If you observe things that you truly are interested about or interested in talking about then you have your openers. Open-ended questions are also a great way to start conversing while learning more about the other person.

I hope this helps. If you have any more questions let me know and I will try my best to answer them.