My definition of conversation: a two-way interaction where two or more people freely share ideas and create a verbal synergy that is more than the sum of its parts. i.e., fun. You can hold up your side of the conversation by providing more statements and asking fewer questions.
"How do you show interest in people without asking questions?" my friend G-Rod asks me. I punch him in the shoulder and tell him you make statements in a personal way that make people reciprocate. The best way to start a fire is not by rubbing sticks together. It's to stick something in there already on fire.
For example, just today.... I'm crunching my abs at the YMCA. Nearby a girl works out. She's Joan of Ark. Impervious to distraction. She stares straight ahead as she lunges, sword and shield in hand. Okay they were dumbbells, but you get the picture. I understand most people, including myself, don't want to be disturbed while they're working out. But I can't help myself. I love a challenge. And I'm comfortable with hypocrisy. So when she pauses between sets, I wiggle my fingers at her and try to look friendly.
She pops her earbuds out and looks at me as if I'm from outer space.
"Sorry to bother you while you're working out," I say. "But I'm just wondering something about you."
This is what I call a Preamble. Most strangers don't hear the first words you say to them. They're in shock and awe that you would be talking to them in the first place. You can string together the most articulate, poetic words but all they will hear is, "wawawa." They're too busy processing your vibe, checking your hands for rocks and your face for aggression, and taking in your tone of voice. So don't waste your breath saying anything important. Get their full attention and build anticipation first.
She steps closer. "Yes?"
"That looks like an interesting exercise to me. I'm curious what sport you're training for."
She smiles. "Oh, no sport really. I do a little snowboarding. I'm just keeping in shape."
"Oh, I see. I ski. I wish I was a snowboarder. Your gear is much more hip. I'm jealous."
She smiles. "Oh and I'm a swimsuit model and a Budweiser girl in Cleveland."
That is what she said, I swear. Ladies and gentlemen, I can't make this stuff up.
I throw down a few more crunches. "Uh nice, I do a little bikini modeling myself. Okay, that's a lie. I model for Lazy Boy."
She laughs, steps closer, stretches her hamstrings.
"My training is extensive," I say. "Lot's of taking it easy, eating french fries." I look around. "I'd actually get in trouble if they found me here."
"You could say you were about to lay on those mats."
"Yeah, now you're thinking. I like that. What's your name?"
"Nice to meet you Jenny, I'm Wayne. Like that movie Wayne's World. Do you have a mnemonic to remember your name?"
Crickets chirping. Stupid close-ended question.
"So... yeah, I like talking with you." I throw down a couple more crunches. "I'm so going to drink a smoothie after this."
She ran her hand through her hair. "Yeah, my kids love those things."
I lost my balance mid-crunch, stunned. "You mean cats. Your cats love those things. It almost sounded like you said kids. Ha ha. As in small people with runny noses. Ha ha."
"I have a three and a five year old."
"No way you have babies. You're too, uh..."
"Yeah, moms are supposed to be Vikings."
She laughs. "Yeah. Most people are surprised."
"I want to have kids one day. I think they'd be fun. Like playmates that can't escape."
We move over to a lat pull down bar where I try to induce my lats muscles to resemble those of Brad Pitt.
"I play basketball with my five year old upstairs all the time." she says.
We talk on and off throughout our workouts. I feel as if I've made a friend.
But then Jenny finds me on her way out and thanks me for meeting her. She insists on giving me a high five. I change it to an Obama Rock. But no doubt, there's chemistry.
Later, I'm minding my own business, pretending the water I'm sucking from the fountain is a fruit smoothie when the fitness floor manager Rex walks by me smiling.
"You're my hero," he says.
I'm out of sorts. "What are you talking about?"
"I've seen lots of guys try to talk to her. I've never seen anyone get as much out of her. What did you ask her?"
"Nothing," I say. "Must have caught her on a good day."
Ahem. Just another feat for Conversation Man. I throw open a window and fly away.
I feel confident that Jenny would not have shared so much of her self if I would have come in with a bunch of questions. I think that would have made her feel interrogated and impinged upon. How it was, I made lots of statements which made her feel she was choosing of her own free-will to talk back to me.
Making more statements will help you:
* De-strangerfi yourself. People don't like to open up to those they don't know. So make sure they know you. Questions say very little about you while statements can set you up for personal expression.
* Think of more things to say. When you are in the mindset of making statements you are on your mental home turf. When you are simply asking questions it is easy to inquire about what you don't really care about risking a conversational dead-end.
* Allow the other person to feel as if they are making a choice to continue the conversation with you. Questions demand a response. Responding to statements is optional. Therefore when someone does chose to respond it's a more committed response.
* Statements lead others to share. People are not interested in opening themselves up to strangers. When you make more statements and ask fewer questions you de-strangerfi yourself. Also, when you
* Just suck it up. If you can't win someone over with statements, a bunch of questions will just delay the inevitable rejection.