Conversation Management Essay Assignment 1
Connecting with other people is an integral part of life, and your ability to engage in everyday ay conversations is crucial to your mental and physical well- being and success. Some people are gregarious; they enjoy meeting people, getting to know them, asking them questions, and exchanging information.
However, other people have difficulty initiating a conversation with a stranger; they are shy; they get tongue-tied, self- conscious, or embarrassed in social situations; or they never know what to say when they h ave to engage in conversation. As we discussed in Chapter 5, these individuals may have communication apprehension or may be shy, introverted, or have an unwillingness to communicate. In this section, we examine the importance of everyday conversations when initiating interpersonal relationships with others.
The Conversation Process
In every situation, there is a process we use to meet and engage in conversations with othe rs. Let’s look at the main components in the conversation process
The environment in which you live and work plays a major role in your chances of meeting other people, which is the first necessary part of the conversation process. Early research o n housing developments, for example, found that location matters in terms of who talked to whom. Specifically, neighbors whose houses had adjacent driveways had more frequent co nversations with one another than with people whose driveways were farther away, and p eople whose houses were in the middle of the block tended to have more frequent contact with other people on that block than those whose houses were at the end of the block (Why te, 1956). Other researchers found that people who lived in apartments tended to have grea ter social contact and more friendships with people in the same building and particularly fr om their same floor. They also tended to converse with people whose doors faced theirs rat her than with those whose doors were next to theirs or some distance away (Festinger, Sch achter, & Back, 1963). In a more recent study, individuals who own dogs were found to spe nd more time outside, be more recognizable to their neighbors, and serve as a source of con versation (Power, 2013), thus decreasing their physical distance from others.
The reason for these results seems obvious: You tend to get to know the people you see or r un into most often due to simple geographic proximity. However, meeting people can be re garded as a numbers game: You are more likely to meet other people if you put yourself in s ituations that allow you to interact with others. If you find it difficult to meet people, make an effort to seek out situations where you can interact with others, be it in person or throug h mediated channels. Engage in social activities, join colleagues in the break room, join a clu b, or walk around your neighborhood. Despite the belief that Americans don’t know or trus t their neighbors anymore, research has found that most know at least some of the individu als who live around them, and more than half say they would trust a neighbor with a key to their home (Parker et al., 2018). Thus, these geographically proximal conversations could p otentially be built upon and grown into interpersonal relationships. If you prefer to interact
with others online, join an online group for a hobby or cause that interests you, or enlarge your circle of friends on the social networking sites you already belong to.
Once you meet someone, how do you improve your chances of making a favorable first imp ression? The idiom breaking the ice describes the second step in the conversation process: e stablishing rapport. Having rapport with someone means that you connect or communicate well and understand each other. In other words, rapport means that your interactions with another person are smooth and harmonious (Spencer- Oatey, 2005) and that you likely achieve shared meaning. This initial rapport can be the fou ndation upon which you can build a close relationship. Rapport is also an important aspect of building and maintaining satisfying relationships in the workplace, as it is an essential co mponent of effective face-to-face business and professional interactions (Pullin, 2010). As we mentioned earlier, we form first impressions of other people in less than a second. H owever, psychiatrist Leonard Zunin (1986) argues that when we meet people, we have abo ut four minutes to establish rapport. He suggests that at a typical party, if the host or hostes s introduces two strangers, they will tend to converse for a minimum period— on average, about four minutes— before they decide to continue the conversation or to move on. If a relationship continues, i t is by mutual consent; if one person is unwilling, the potential relationship is lost for that moment. At the core of establishing rapport, says Zunin (1986), are four key principles:
- Conveying confidence. Choosing not to exude confidence— the belief that you can be successful or excel at something— may create a temporary sympathy from the other person in the conversation, but most peo ple do not respond favorably if they perceive the other person lacks confidence or is self- demeaning or overly apologetic.
- Being creative. Making contacts means finding ways to tune into the feelings of others. Hum or may be used, but you can also notice and comment on something interesting about the ot her person, and using your strengths and interests can help you find ways of initiating conv ersation with others.
- Showing that you care. Asking appropriate questions about personal interests, giving your t otal attention, and being a good listener show the other person that you care. Indeed, Dale Carnegie, author of the best- selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People, said, “You can make more friends in t wo months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to g et other people interested in you” (1990, p. 54).
- Being considerate. Being sensitive and aware that you are relating to another unique individ ual is one way to show consideration. Zunin (1986) describes consideration best by saying that some people we meet leave us feeling a little better about ourselves after we talk with t hem. Listening skills (which we address later in this chapter) are some of the most importa nt ways in which you express consideration for other people— by making good eye contact, appropriately smiling, being engaged with the other person, a nd responding with meaningful questions and comments. The feeling of consideration is th us a combination of the other three factors: confidence, creativity, and caring.
When establishing rapport during the initial phase of an interaction, we can use open- ended questions to encourage the other person to share information.
Culture can help determine the best way to initiate a conversation. In the United States, for example, a smile, a handshake, or a simple “hello” are ways to initiate a conversation. The n ext step is to ask a non- threatening question, to comment about some element of the occasion or the environment i n which the two of you are talking, or to listen carefully and to respond to what the other p erson says. For example, you might ask general questions such as, “Where are you from?” o r “Have you been in this area long?” Questioning the other person is a useful strategy many people employ because it allows them to avoid focusing on themselves, and it gives the oth er person the opportunity to share information. When you ask a question or make a comme nt, stick to facts rather than opinions, and focus on noncontroversial subjects. Try to use op en-
ended questions that ask who, what, where, when, why, and how. Such questions require m ore than a yes or no answer and encourage the other person to talk. You might also use a technique called speech mirroring to help you establish and build rapp ort with another person. To do this, pay attention to how the other person is speaking— how fast and how loudly the person talks and the pattern of give and take in the conversati on. Then try to subtly match your speech with the pace and characteristics of the speech set by the other person. This technique can help both of you feel more comfortable with each o ther.
The first two steps we have discussed will generally get you through the crucial first four m inutes and avoid disagreement, during which time you and the other person will decide to e nd the conversation or to continue. If you both desire to continue the conversation, you will worry less about establishing and maintaining rapport from that point on. It should natura lly unfold on its own.
An important but often overlooked aspect of the conversation process is turn- taking. A conversation requires that both communicators act as speakers and as listeners, a nd the transition between these two roles should occur fluidly and naturally. Recall from C hapter 4 that we use many nonverbal messages to regulate when each communicator takes turns during an interaction, and a conversation is no different. Indeed, when one communic ator dominates the interaction by speaking the majority of the time, it becomes less of a con versation and more of a monologue. Both individuals need to take turns for the conversatio n to be maintained.