7 Tips for Having Connecting Conversations
Having a connecting conversation isn't easy.
A petty argument can start in a matter of minutes. Things like being too hungry or tired, not recognizing stress or just having a bad day can contribute.
According to the Gottman Institute you can predict the health of a conversation in the first three minutes. The most important part of a conversation is how it starts. Think about the last time a conversation got away from you. It happens fast doesn't it?
Connecting conversations have different puzzle pieces. You need to each one to keep the communication healthy.
1. Start it off right by avoiding criticism and negative comments.
How many times have you come home from work complaining about the mess or what a jerk your boss is?
The other person gets defensive and before you know it, you're bickering. It becomes a ping pong game of negativity. Being aware of how a conversation starts is the first step in changing it.
Tip: How you start a conversation sets the tone for everything that follows it.
2. Share your stress as a way to connect instead of finding fault.
Did you know that sharing your stress creates connection? Studies show that it's a neutral way of showing support. You connect by focusing on what's happening outside of the relationship instead of each other.
When you hide stress, it leaks out in hurtful ways. Blame is the fastest way to kill communication and trigger anger. Sharing your stress helps avoid that.
Tip: Create a ritual of having a stress reducing conversation. This increases emotional intimacy.
3. Admit when you're too tired or stressed to talk.
Trying to talk when you're too tired or stressed is a disaster. You won't hear what's being said accurately because you're running on empty. Having a great conversation means waiting until both people are ready.
Notice when the communication starts going downhill. Is it first thing in the morning when you're rushing or before dinner when you're really hungry and irritable? Knowing when to not to talk is important too.
Tip: Communicate your stress early and negotiate the best time to chat.
4. Be responsive by turning towards them.
According to The Gottman Institute when your partner has a need you'll respond in three ways.
- Turning towards is responding directly to your partner's request even if the answer is no. Eye contact and attention is focused on your partner.
- Turning away is responding while being distracted. Texting and social media are common distractions that make your partner feel unimportant.
- Turning against is responding with aggressive behaviors like name-calling, physical abuse, yelling or intense blame.
No one does it perfectly but knowing the areas to improve helps.
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5. Strive for a healthy balance of listening and talking.
Talking is the easy part. Listening takes an ability to stay in the moment. It's the hardest part of communication because you have to suspend your thinking to do it well.
If you don't have the energy to listen, say so. Don't try to fake it. Great conversations are based on authenticity. When you show genuine interest, the other person feels cherished. Interest is shown by doing these three things:
- Give good eye contact
- Ask clarifying questions
- Respond to what's being said by staying on topic
- Don't hijack the conversation by making it all about you
Sometimes, it takes one than more conversation to hear each other out. Taking one piece at a time can avoid overwhelm.
Tip: Don't listen because you want to talk. Giving your full attention is an emotional aphrodisiac.
6. Don't try to fix, find a solution or give advice unless asked.
Trying to fix or give solutions is tempting, but unless asked, it creates frustration. No one likes to be told what they should be doing. Giving unsolicited advice can make others feel dismissed and not heard.
Connecting is about making the effort to listen not offering solutions. That's why being a good listener is so important. When you can listen without giving advice, that's acceptance.
Tip: Focus more on validating their experience instead of trying to fix it.
7. Focus on what's good and ask your partner to do the same.
When you focus on what isn't working, it becomes a complain fest. You can't control your first thought but you have the power to catch the second. Having a great conversation means finding ways to connect. Using humor and compliments can bridge the gap.
Both people feel heard when you listen without judgment. Taking five minutes to share something positive can create a light hearted connection.
Tip: Did you know that the act of smiling is shown to improve mood even if it's fake?
Having a connecting conversation isn't tough, it just takes a willingness to practice something new.
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