The Hidden Tools Behind Conversations

How do we build and strengthen relationships with others? The answer is through conversation.  During conversations, we learn about other people, their interests, their past, their values, and their dreams. Through multiple conversations, we discover mutual interests and possible desires to become closer to that person.

Conversations come in many different forms such as small talk, empathetic listening, talking about a shared experience, persuasive conversations, planning, and many more. In order to actively participate in conversing, one must demonstrate good Social Thinking®. It’s important to know how to demonstrate active listening skills through verbal and non-verbal cues. It’s essential to understand perspective-taking in order to detect hidden intentions of others. Self-awareness and self-monitoring skills must help one figure out when he or she is spending too much time talking about own interests and too little time talking about the other person and his/her interests. Having a conversation that is enjoyed by all participants requires each person to balance the amount of time focused on each other. Asking questions mostly highlights the conversational partner and linking comments often highlights one’s self.

Participating in conversations is like participating in an intricate dance with another person. It is essential to constantly read the other person’s moves, adjust your participation maintaining flexibility, and follow along with a set beat.

The following forms of conversational exchanges each spend time highlighting the different perspectives of each participant during a conversation:

Add-a-Thought:
You add a comment to the conversation about yourself. This comment is linked to what someone recently said.
Example: Friend 1: “I am swimming after school today.” Friend 2: “I take swimming lessons at the Y.”
Purpose: It allows you to talk about you. It also helps the conversation visit different topics over time.

Supporting Comment:
It exemplifies you are listening to what someone is saying through verbal or non-verbal statements.
Example:Cool,” “That sound like fun,”Uh-huh,” or smiles and head nods
Purpose: It lets the other person know you are listening and you have your brain in the group.

Asking Questions Following a Leading Comment:
A comment is made that leads you to ask a question to find out more about what the other person wants to say.
Example: Friend 1: “I am excited to get home today.” Friend 2: “What are you doing?”
Purpose: It makes you seem like you think about others and demonstrates good perspective taking skills. It makes people want to talk to you.

By Nikki Stewart, MA, BCBA

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