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May 27 2022
In the digital age, conversation has never been more important. A good conversation not only builds social and professional connections, it also builds brain connections. Here are five reasons why having better conversations could boost your performance.
1. The best medium for communication is right under your nose
While emails, texts and social media posts may be more convenient, talking face to face creates the richest sense of connection and belonging. It boosts resilience and makes it easier to process things without overwhelm, making it the best medium for discussing complex topics. And the nuances of tone and body language also make it the best medium for sensitive conversations where it’s important to avoid misunderstanding.
Take time to have regular conversations with the people in your personal and professional life–even a quick chat can inspire more efficiency and productive thinking.
2. Conversation reminds us that we can’t always be right
Getting stuck in social media echo chambers or blogging into the void can leave our understanding impoverished and our biases unchallenged. And in an era where most of the “civilised debate” on the internet is neither civilised nor a debate, it’s understandable to feel wary of contentious conversations. But learning to appreciate difference is crucial to emotional intelligence–and it starts with conversation.
Enter every conversation assuming you can learn something new. Stay open to the flow of information and be aware that it’s okay to have your perspectives and opinions challenged. The person you’re talking to will sense this and feel safer to open up.
3. Small talk is good for your brain
While we may disparage chitchat about the weather, it can actually act as a beneficial exercise for your brain, similar to doing a brain-teaser, according to a 2010 study by the University of Michigan.
Don’t fear “shallow” pleasantries–they’re a way of promoting social connection, which is in fact a deep and important part of human life.
4. Listening leads to learning
Conversation is one of the best ways to learn–but it’s the listening part, not the speaking part, that provides 85% of that learning, according to the International Listening Association. We’d all rather talk, but a conversation is more than two people talking at each other.
To develop your active listening skills, stop listening with the intent to reply, and start listening with the intent to understand. Give the other person your full attention, and try mirroring–repeating or paraphrasing what they’ve said every so often to make sure you’re understanding.
5. Conversation begets ideas
Conversation is a great way to brainstorm creative ideas and solutions to problems, and to articulate and fully explore your thoughts. Seeing our ideas through someone else’s eyes helps us refine our perceptions.
Treat conversation as an informal brainstorming session where you don’t have to ‘be right’. Avoid the impulse to be critical or talk over people–approach conversation with a sense of shared purpose and collaboration, and ask open questions to encourage creativity.