RJ extraordinaire Malavika Varadan discusses 7 Ways to Make a Conversation with Anyone at TEDxBITSPilaniDubai.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: 7 Ways to Make a Conversation With Anyone by Malavika Varadan at TEDxBITSPilaniDubai
Hello everybody. I’m going to start with a question: how many of you know the person sitting next to you from before today? Interesting.
So do you remember the first conversation that you ever had with that person? You know, conversations are links. OK. Let’s imagine every conversation to be a tiny metalink and every time you talk to a stranger, a metalink is formed.
And every conversation that you have after that moment, the link gets stronger and stronger and every day each one of us meets so many strangers, the grocery guy, the cab guy. Maybe the receptionist at a new office you went to.
And with every conversation we build new links. Until finally at the end we’ve created a kind of massive worldwide web of conversations. World-wide web. It’s a catchy word, I think I have heard that somewhere. That’s it, right?
A conversation, it’s a fascinating thing, a conversation is an adventure. A conversation gives you a whole new perspective. A conversation opens a door. The conversations can make war. And conversations can make peace. And conversations define who we are as a human race.
And think about this: every single person in your life was once a stranger to you. And you knew nothing about them until you had that first conversation. So I’m here today to tell you to talk to strangers and to have a conversation. And I’m here to tell you how. Seven ways that you can make a conversation with almost anyone.
I’m a radio presenter and I love talking to people. I do. I love it. And I’m so glad that I do it for a living. Here is what my day is like, right. Every single morning I go into an empty room. And I put on a mike and I have a conversation with 1.6 million people that I can’t see. Yeah. You know, what the hardest part is, though. It’s timing. In a four-hour show I get 20 minutes. That’s all the talk there is. And in 20 minutes I have to convince you that I am your best friend.
How do I do that? How do I establish a connection? I have 20 minutes to inform you, to excite you, to engage with you, but most importantly, 20 out of the 20 times that I switch on that mike, I have to leave a smile on your face. Except I can’t see you. I know nothing about you and I have no way of gauging your reactions.
How do you do it? How do you talk to a stranger? So well, my nine years in radio have taught me these simple little tricks.
Strangers. They are everywhere and we’ve always been told don’t talk to strangers but I beg to differ. Every stranger comes with an opportunity — an opportunity to learn something new, an opportunity to have an experience you never had or hear a story that you’ve never heard before. And you had that moment, right? You’re in the room with someone you don’t know and you look across the room.
You see a stranger and you think I want to talk to this person and you can almost hear the first word but it just won’t come out, it kind of get stuck about here, it kind of goes up and down and you don’t know. You know what, here is my advice. Just say it. What’s the worst that can happen? They want to talk to you. Well they’re not talking to you now.
The first word floodgates — I truly believe that the first word acts as a floodgate. You know, once you said the first word, everything else just flows. So keep it simple – a hi, a hey, a hello, and do what every good bowler does. Just gather the enthusiasm, the positivity, the energy, put on a big smile and say hi. I know there is going to be that strange moment right now. Go on to someone sitting next to you, stick your hand out and say hello. Go on.
I love the awkward laughter. Why is she making us do this? The first word floodgates.
You know, here is the challenge we face every day, time — we have 90 seconds on radio and we have to make that conversation with a stranger memorable. So how do you do it? What’s the biggest challenge? Honestly if we get stuck in the rut of hi, hey, how are you? I’m fine. What’s going on? Nothing much. Same old. So tell me what’s new? There you go, 45 seconds down wasted. Right?
So here is my advice. Skip the small talk and ask her really personal question. And don’t be afraid, trust me. You will be surprised how much people are willing to share if you just ask. So ask any kind of personal question, maybe interesting name. How did your parents think of it? Is there a story behind it? Or how long have you lived in this city and do you remember the first day you landed here? You see, answers for those questions are always something unique, always something personal.
My favorite one to try is where do you come from and where does your family live? Unfailingly every single time I sit in a cab, I do this. I ask that question: where do you come from and where does your family live? Let me tell you a little story. I was coming home one night and I got into this taxi, opened the door, sat down, I say, “Where are you from? Where does your family live?”
And the 60-year Pakistani cab driver goes on to tell me all about his life in Peshawar. We talked about politics, we talked about music, family, wife, his farm and 20 minutes later he is convinced that I am the perfect bride for his 26-year year old college educated son from Peshawar. And as I am getting out of the taxi, he’s taking out a passport-sized photograph with a look of enthusiasm. I have to say it was a very difficult goodbye. But the moral of the story really is what starts with a hello can end with a marriage proposal and that is a warning.
Step three. Find the me toos. Have you ever met someone who starts a conversation like they’re starting a debate. I’m from Delhi. I hate Delhi. Yeah, nothing kills a conversation like a negative. When you meet someone for the first time, make an effort to find the one thing that you and that other person might have in common.
When you start at that point and then move outward from there, you will find that all of a sudden the conversation becomes a lot easier. And that’s because the both of you are suddenly on the same side of something. And that’s really a powerful feeling.
Now what could you possibly have in common with a stranger you ask? Could be anything, right? You’re both in the same place at the same time. Maybe you’re from the same country. Maybe you both like the winter or you’re longing for it to rain. I don’t know you find something.
When you find a me-too you automatically have a kind of buy-in from the other person. Pay a unique compliment. I read somewhere that people will forget what you do and they’ll forget what you say but they will never forget how you made them feel. So be generous and go out and give someone a nice full compliment.
So I have this belief about a compliment immunity meter and it comes from this experience I had when I met this gorgeous supermodel, right. And I look at her and I say, “Wow! You’re beautiful” and there is no reaction on her face. And I think to myself, how? That’s when I realized she is immune to the word beautiful. She’s probably heard it a 100,000 times today and if she is on social media, she’s had it a million times today.