Good conversation is like a beautifully unchoreographed dance where each person takes a turn leading and where being in tune with your partner is essential to a perfect result. Have you ever asked yourself what kind of conversation partner you are?
Once upon a time, a very good friend told me that I was a bad listener, to which I replied: What? Que? Moi? Me? NO WAY. I am a GREAT listener. He had stabbed me in the heart with a rusty spoon. Ironically, I thought he was a bad listener, too.
Are you thinking, what on earth does this have to do with foodieness? Well, I feel that a lot of the world’s conversations occur over food or cocktails and the quality of the conversation can make or break an experience.
Ever since my friend told me I was a bad listener, I have tried extra hard to not only listen, but to be a conscious engager of conversation, especially at social gatherings.
I don’t want to make this the longest blog post in the world, but I would love to give some tips on being Fred Astaire when it comes to dinner/cocktail conversations. You may apply these to any conversation, even if it doesn’t involve food.
- Smile with your eyes and your mouth. This simple step will change your energy and make you more “open” to prospective conversation partners. Try it now.
- Ask the host about the dishes they have prepared: Where did you get this recipe? If you wonder about an ingredient, chances are someone else does as well. Ask about it.
- Look at people in the eye when you talk to them. There is no need to fixate on them like you are going to bite them in the neck. Simply make eye contact.
- Listen. If someone is speaking, try not to think about the oregano that is lodged in your tooth or someone else’s tooth. If the topic inspires a response, wait until the person has finished and say something like, cool story and if the story sucked, then simply smile and refer to #5..
- Exit. If you get stuck with a lame duck, do a shoulder squeeze, people love shoulder squeezes, and politely excuse yourself to the bathroom, checking an urgent work email or simply smile and step away and say, great to meet/see you!
- Participate: If someone is speaking to you about anything, really pay attention and let them know that you are listening. Have you ever danced with someone who simply stopped dancing in the middle of the song? Probably not. It would be a shocking and strange experience. So why would you think it is ok, to stare blankly at someone who is speaking with you?
- Thank the host/bartendor/waiter. Be grateful and gracious in general. The rewards are priceless. (more about manners than convo, but I had to throw it in)
- Stay home. If you aren’t feeling social or are particularly crotchety, stay home, open up a box of bon bons and watch Conan. Do not subject people at a social affair to your poo pooiness.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, even if you don’t agree.