I think there's roughly two good strategies for having conversations with people.
The first is actually speaking your mind freely once you get to know someone even a bit, including all the politically incorrect things.
As a somewhat tame example, I think the British Empire did more good than any other nation in history and was overwhelmingly a force for good in humanity. However, people mostly hear about their bad deeds, but don't hear about all the suicide cults, assassin's organizations, human sacrificing religions, and so on, and so on, that they ended. People also take for granted all the hygiene, infrastructure, rule of law, scientific method, and so on that they propagated.
I'll point this out, even though it upsets some people. It's honest and not politically correct (but true!).
There's another strategy, which is to suss out what the person you're speaking to thinks, and try to converse on common ground and without being offensive. Done correctly, this actually means being liked by a wider group of people and not offending as many people... and this isn't so bad, really. Most people will lionize speaking up in theory, but react really hostile in practice if you say, for instance, that you think universal suffrage is a terrible way to choose a government.
Anyways, you can guess which camp I fall into most of the time, but the second one is good. The second way is much more open to making connections with everyone. Seriously, almost everyone has something of value that you could share with them, but if you say that British imperialism was a huge net gain for the world and universal suffrage was a huge net loss, then you're going to miss some connections you could make. If instead you talked on what's relevant to a person and you, you'd have a lot more consistently pleasant and good conversations.
What you probably ought to avoid is doing something that's in neither camp. Most people don't speak their mind, but also don't really care about finding out what's important to whoever they're talking with... so conversation drifts to just... nonsense, I guess. Really trite, smalltalk junk. That's no good.
Option 1 - Speak up, honestly, even if it's controversial. This gets you into lots of fascinating discussions, makes the people who like you really like and admire you, but creates enemies and people who despise you as well.
Option 2 - Find out what whoever you're talking to cares about; talk about that. Also produces lots of interesting conversations - you don't get to cover some interesting topics, but you make up for it by being able to learn from many, many different kinds of people. Most people will like you, but you get less extremely strong supporters than Option 1.
Thanks for the insight.
I personally find that I fall into the 1st category. When I become comfortable speaking to someone, I get carried away and start talking about the (somewhat controversial) topics that I am passionate about. However, after we've gone our separate ways, I begin to regret that I hadn't given more attention to the interests of the other party.
Is this normal, or am I asking for too much.
Great post Sebastian.
I'll probably aim for option two because I need to really network but hearing that again really gives me another boost to do it. Great advice and those are two great options. Both work to eliminate small talk, which annoys the heck out of me.
If you could, it would be cool to follow up on tips HOW to find out about people's passion. I know some ways like: words that slip out on the initial small talk or how they dress, etc. But are there any other ways from the top of your head?
This is first time actually contacting you, or anybody through blog for that matter. But you make it almost too easy(you must be bombarded with e-mail, good luck!).
I'm interested to know your strategy or preference on maximizing meaningful conversations abroad or even back home. I mean do you have any particular tactic or is it mostly random. Any public places or events that stir up conversations with strangers, any small talk lines or questions(etc. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?) that lead to insight and good conversation.
I'm from Finland and I'm going to travel a bit in asia(Okinawa, Seoul, Katmandu, Bhutan) and I find conversations as the best way to learn and experience different cultures. It would be such a waste to do it randomly if it there's is a way to do it most efficient way.
If you have any book recommendations, please make them available in amazon.co.uk with your affiliate id I would be happy to support you somehow.
Last week I was working on this "found poem" for Friday, but then forgot to post it by Friday. So I am posting it today as a "bonus" found poem.
The language comes from a Wisconsin case, Brown v. Phillips, in which Olympia Brown, a renowned advocate for women's suffrage, sought to exercise the right to vote. The Wisconsin legislature had passed a law allowing women to vote on school-related matters, and Brown sought under that law to vote for the election of officials whose actions would have effect on school-related matters. Brown lost the case, because the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that the law allowing women to vote on school matters did not extend so broadly to cover elections for every official whose actions would effect schools.
You can read more about women's suffrage in Wisconsin here.
Though the case was ultimately not a win for women's suffrage, the part I "found" or carved out of it is the part that stands for a fundamental proposition of feminism, that "women are people." One of the arguments of those opposing Brown's right to vote was that a constitutional provision that said that the legislature could pass laws extending the right to vote to "persons" did not mean women, too, because the only "persons" whom the constitution originally gave the right to vote were males. Thus, the argument went, the word "persons" should be understood to be limited to "persons" in the sense it seemed to be used in the constitution itself: men, only.
The court soundly rejected this reasoning, as you'll see, below.