Deep conversations; how to have people trust you and open up to you.
Have you ever wondered how to get people to open up to you?
Are you tired of having only surface conversations that hardly go beyond the weather or the economy? Is there someone in your life you will like to have deeper conversations with, where they open up to you on what’s really going on in their lives?
If yes, then there’s just two things you need to learn to do better: Asking good questions and Listening.
But before we go into these two things, we need to clarify 3 things:
- What’s your motive — why do you want people to open to you? (Are you sincere?)
- Can you keep a secret? (Are you trustworthy?)
- Do you make it easy for people to talk to you? (Are you approachable?)
Let’s start with the first?
1. What’s your motive?:
Getting people to open up to you starts with you asking yourself, "why do I want them to open up to me?".
If it's because you're genuinely interested in them or you want to give them the freedom to express themselves or help them with troubling concerns buried inside then you've got a good motive.
If it's none of these things and it's really because you get a good feeling when people tell you stuff about themselves no one else knows, or you intend using stuff they tell you to manipulate them, then you've got a wrong motive, and you need to sort that out first.
2. Can you keep a secret?
If you know you find it difficult not telling your spouse or your best friend a secret someone else told you, then you need to sort that out first. People opening up to you, particularly on deep things buried inside, is a thing of high trust, once you tell someone that tells someone else and word goes around till it gets back to the person, you would lose their trust. And trust lost, is hard to regain.
3. Are you approachable?
Be nice. Be polite. Smile often. Crack a joke. Let laughter become a habit. These things have a way of bringing down people's high walls.
Work on greeting people kindly, be generous, and be comfortable being with people that are different from you.
Make People Feel Important: Because they are.
Be interested in people.
Okay, so now you’ve sorted out the things that concern you— the things you must become; you’ve got the right motive, you’ve learnt to keep your mouth shut, and you’ve become more approachable, right? Great! Now let’s get down to the heart of getting people to open up to you.
4. ASK QUESTIONS
This is where it all starts from, and perhaps where you need to practise most. When next you meet someone, don't wait for them to strike a conversation with you, rather, take the bull by the horn— start one. And it starts by being interested in them enough to ask them questions that will make them tell you about themselves. *See everyone like a book that's being written, and in asking questions you get to turn the pages of this amazing book.*
But in asking questions here's the thing you need to watch: don't go about it like an interrogation, bombarding people with one question after the next like you're some detective. Do that and they will recoil; no one likes feeling investigated.
Rather, take it like a chorister following the gesticulations of the choir master. Follow the rhythm of the other person. Let one question naturally flow into the next. In answering some questions they may spend more time than another, let them, don't get impatient and move on to another question you may be more interested in; let them lead the pace.
Try this: the next time you meet someone think up at least 5 questions you can ask e.g what's your name? what's the meaning of your name? what school do you attend? What work do you do? Why did you choose the course/work you're doing? Is there something you love/dislike most about your job/school/church/family. Tell me one unique thing you love about each of your kids. What's your favourite soccer team... what's your attraction to them?" What were your childhood dreams? etc
Now here's the thing, to prevent it seeming like an interrogation, for any question you ask, ask another question based on the person's response instead of immediately bouncing off to a totally new question.
For example, from the last question "what were your childhood dreams?". The person may respond "oh I wanted to be a thoracic surgeon." Rather than bouncing off to another question, follow the beat and ask next "that sounds cool, but why did you want to be that? And from that they may spend the next half an hour talking about their childhood. It's okay, don't butt into something new, let them talk, *follow their flow*. You can move into a different question when you you've exhausted the first.
(Also remember to ask clarifiying questions)
HOW TO GET PEOPLE TO OPEN UP TO YOU
5. LET PEOPLE TALK
Sound obvious? It is actually. Maybe that's why we so often miss it. If you want people to talk to you, you must be ready to listen twice as much as you speak.
You've done the first part; you've shown genuine interest in people and got them talking about themselves— their interests, goals, concerns etc. Now that they've started to talk, let them continue to talk.
Don't give in to the temptation to interrupt them with your own experiences as it relates to theirs, rather enter their experience. If you must talk about yourself only talk as much as is needed to keep them talking about themselves. Remember the focus is them, not you.
However if at any point they sincerely want you to talk about yourself, then freely open up. If you want people to open up to you when you knock, you should do the same when they knock.
Overall, the rule is simple: keep your mouth shut till they would have you speak.
6. DON'T BE QUICK TO OFFER SOLUTIONS
I know, I know, I know! It can be really tempting right, particularly when you feel you know just what they're going through and what the solution is. But that's exactly where you need to apply the brakes and bite your tongue.
When people present a problem to you, don't be quick to offer solutions. Seek first to get to the root of the matter, just like a doctor that seeks first to diagnose the condition of a patient before prescribing drugs.
*Most times the situation people present at first goes deeper than they've captured.* By asking questions and letting them talk more about the situation while you intently listen, you'll get a better idea of what really is the problem and exactly what advice they need.
7. LET PEOPLE FEEL HEARD
Sometimes, even if someone presented a problem and you genuinely knew the root of the problem and the solution, still let them talk, don't immediately shove the advice down their throats. When they feel heard, they are more likely to listen to the solutions or perspectives you present to them.
And for the time you spend listening, give complete attention; let them feel like nothing else matters to you right then but them. *Make them the centre of your attraction for the time being.*
8. LISTEN TO THE UNSPOKEN
This can be tricky, but the general rule is this: people mostly talk about what they find comfortable, and keep silent on the things that trouble them or they feel people might judge them on.
Now the thing is this: it's usually those areas that they aren't comfortable talking about is where they need help.
And those are the areas not spoken you want to listen out for. Imagine a friend always talks about her dad and never talks about her mum, then you could suspect there's a problem as concerns the mum, and you want to ask questions regarding that.
9. LISTEN WITHOUT JUDGING
Perhaps this is the most important of all.
People are willing to talk more than we realise, but they need to know they would not be judged. They need to know what they say isn't going to change the way we see them.
For example if I'm experiencing a moment of failure I need to know if I tell a friend they won't see me as a failure, incompetent, weak or pitiful etc. I'll need to know in telling them, their perspective of me won't change.
Everyone needs an outlet, someone they can pour their hearts to without the fear of being judged, that they can afford to be naked with and not feel ashamed.
*If people know they can listen to you without being judged they would tell you anything.* And you can do this by simply telling them whatever they say won't change how you see them and being empathetic no matter what they tell you and in their times of failure.
10 DON'T PUSH IT
Sometimes you may try everything but still someone may decide not to open up to you, maybe as regarding a particular matter. It's okay, don't push it. You could say something like "If you don't want to talk about this, it's okay." Or, "if you're not yet ready to talk about this, it's okay. We can talk about it some other time." Or, "is there any part of this matter you could talk about now and you'd continue the rest later when you're ready?"
In all of this approaches, the underlying message is that you're letting the person know they're in control and you won't force them to speak if they're not ready. *The more people feel you aren't trying to control them the more of themselves they'd eventually give to you.*
11. DON'T FORGET.
I personally suck at this. When people tell you stuff try not to forget. Make a mental note of whatever they say and better still write it down, if you're memory is as forgetful as mine. Really the faintest pain is better than the sharpest memory. People feel bad when they tell you things, particularly really personal stuff and you just forget it. They begin to doubt you really cared about what they said.
However there's a good side to forgetting— it helps in keeping secrets;-) (okay, let's pretend I didn't say that, lol)
Practise! *That's the only way you can convert all this theory into a skill.* There are aspects to getting people to open up to you that require intuition. Certain things can't be taught, you intuitively know them as you practise what has been taught. The more you practise the better you intuitively get at asking questions, knowing when to speak and shut up, listening for the unspoken etc.
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