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Group of friends sharing a casual meal outdoorsIt's that time of year again, when we tend to have an increased number of get togethers as we head towards the end of the year. 

As you catch up with family and friends over the coming weeks, it's a good opportunity to notice little details for future reference.  Things like food, drink, music and reading preferences, so you're able to keep these things in mind for future gift giving. 

It's also just a great opportunity to develop your listening skills and see how much better you can get to know people by paying attention to what they're saying.  Actively listening is a great way to make yourself feel more comfortable and confident in social situations, and to take the focus off yourself. 

Do you ever find yourself babbling on nervously in social situations for fear of awkward silences and a need to keep the conversation moving?  Or is that just me?  Well, learning how to ask open ended questions to invite other people to do their share of the talking is the answer to that.

Like lots of things, if you can convince yourself it's a fun game, and keep trying, you'll develop your skill more easily. 

Things to keep in mind:

- What's an open ended question?  One that doesn't invite a yes or no answer, but gives the opportunity for a description or opinion or impression of something.  How many different ways can you think of asking someone how their trip was, how their job is, how their kids are, how is their hobby going? 

- Hint - if you get a short answer, you can easily remedy this with a carefully selected follow up question, and it helps if you can remember anything from previous conversations about that topic.

- Don't always go for the obvious.  A new mother might be a bit tired of talking about mummy stuff and prefer to discuss a book or a film or something else she is involved with, for at least some of the conversation.

- Think before you open your mouth.  An awkward silence is better than sticking your foot in it, and you needn't always take full responsibility for silences or be quite so afraid of them.

- Listen.  If you manage to get someone talking about themselves, make the most of it and take it in.  Don't judge, just listen.  Ask more questions, be genuinely interested.  Learn something.

- Keep it balanced and do a bit of back and forth.  If you get asked about yourself, talk, but remember to then ask questions to invite the other person to contribute.

- Develop strategies for dealing with non stop talkers who corner people and don't know how to stop, remembering that it is probably insecurity and nervousness which causes it.  Be compassionate.

So go on, take what opportunities you can to get out there and mix with your fellow human beings, and try to do something a little bit differently this time.

Comments   

#1 diana quilliam 2011-05-29 19:12
Thank you so much for this blog. I stuggle with social skils and the article reminds me of what I need to do... I tend to talk too much and get increasingly annoyed about it. I sometimes find it hard to get the other person talking and when they do fall into the habit of relating everything back to me eg. they tell me something and I say, oh yes, that happened to me.. and start to tell the story. And before you know it Ive hijacked the conversation and run away with it. After the person has gone I think of all the things I wanted to ask... too late.

I think my social ability problems are twofold.
1. I spend a fair amount of time alone (live out of town and travel a lot to other parts of the state) and
2. nervousness.
However, having said all that. I DID have a wonderful afternoon with a friend the other day and learnt lots about her background and family. Wonderful.

Forgetfulness
The other thing I wanted to mention about this is that Im 61 and hadbeen finding for about a year that I couldnt remember what people were telling me... Ive since found out that I have had a Vit B12 deficiency (pernicious anemia) and now have injections to remedy the situation. What a difference! I really did think I had early onset dementia, scary, I was always so muddled up, had trouble taking in what people were saying and of course remembering things. So of course I couldnt remember things friends had told me for me to follow up on.
So hope that may be of help to someone.

And thanks Yvette for your wonderful heart and your important and extremely helpful work. Di
:-):-)

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