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The Gift of Gab: Learning to Talk to Each Other Again

Published: July 28, 2021 | Last Updated: August 19, 2021 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading
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This guest post, “The Gift of Gab: Learning to Talk to Each Other Again,” was written by my friend and colleague *Cindy La Ferle.

Our social lives took a huge hit during the pandemic. We celebrated birthdays with drive-by parades, limited our holiday gatherings to small family bubbles, and even Zoomed memorial services.

While most national pandemic restrictions have been lifted, we’re still trying to navigate safer ways to gather with friends and loved ones. We’re also rediscovering how to talk to each other after a year of semi-isolation and social distancing.

A friend recently confided that her social skills feel a bit “rusty” now, especially when she meets new people at larger parties or work functions.

No wonder. Pandemic isolation forced us to rely primarily on social media and cell phones, leaving us bereft of body language and other social cues that are essential to three-dimensional conversation. In other words, we got used to talking at each other, rather than with each other.

In our defense, social media sites foster one-sided communication. Along with bragging rights, Facebook and Twitter give us full permission to talk about ourselves nonstop. We like to think we’re interacting with others, but in reality, we’re mostly fueling our addiction to the rush of dopamine we get whenever someone “likes” or comments on our posts.

Real conversation, on the other hand, is a balanced exchange that requires empathy and superb listening skills. It is not a monologue or a recital in which one person drones on about himself while the other person quietly nods (or tries not to yawn).

A good conversation leaves everyone feeling heard, understood and appreciated.

The give-and-take of social skills

The easiest way to refresh and improve our communication skills is to observe the folks who’ve mastered the gift of gab.

For starters, good conversationalists love to learn about other people. My father would always try to discover at least two new things about each person he met or hadn’t seen in a while. To achieve this, he focused on other people and listened carefully — instead of simply waiting for his turn to jump into the conversation. By focusing on others, he reminded me, you can overcome shyness and self-absorption.

Good conversationalists might share details about their own lives — but they always find a way to loop the conversation back to you. They’ll tell you about the week they spent mountain-climbing, for instance, but they’ll never forget to ask what you did on your summer vacation. As Dale Carnegie advised: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.”

Good conversationalists know that a sincere compliment is a great conversation starter. Again, this requires paying close attention to the positive qualities in others rather than worrying about your self-image.

Lastly, good conversationalists never boast or show off. They know that a great conversation is never a competition. Most of all, they understand that listening with an open mind opens a window to understanding a variety of people. No wonder we all enjoy their company.

*Cindy La Ferle is a nationally published columnist and author of an essay collection, “Writing Home.” She blogs at cindylaferlehappythings.blogspot.com.

The Gift of Gab: Learning to Talk to Each Other Again was first published in The Oakland Press (Metro Detroit).

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  1. LauraSL says:

    I love the idea of learning 2 new things about someone!

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