to expand on my idea of inherent human selfishness, I'll refer you to the 18th century's "The Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith and the 19th century's "On the Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin. the thesis of the first one is that selfish welfare pursuit brings greater societal benefits than the efforts of any individual who might deliberately set out to promote it. Darwin's thesis is plain: "survival of the fittest".
this selfishness is also present in our conversations, which makes them suuuuck! during my lifelong journey of learning how to better myself, I discovered that decreasing our selfishness when engaged in conversation helps it be way more enjoyable. but alas, it's mathematically advantageous to be selfish.
talking about math, I was proficient in math, and as everybody knows, math geeks have no social skills. the unfortunate part was: that they were right. I was 18 years old and needed to smooth out my conversation skills. I don't remember how, but I got my hands on what now I know is called a self-help book. my first one, my precious one! it has the very on-the-nose name of "How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships" by Leil Lowndes.
my first delve into becoming a better me. I finished half the book but felt like I just got a PhD for talking to people. I remember giving a presentation about it in front of my class, but given my track record, I recon someone gave much credibility to my words.
this being my first self-development book, my bullshit filter was highly underdeveloped. the dangers of unfiltered advice absorption: sometimes you absorb shit. I mention this as a disclaimer.
"How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships" is mostly narrative-driven. a story for each of the 92 tricks. sometimes more than one! if you explain the techniques without the stories, it will become a much, much shorter read. even on my second read, the fluffy way of writing put me off, and I still didn't finish the book, so I'm not sure this could be qualified as a book review because of that. let's call them: a small portion of my raw and undiluted thoughts and feelings about self-development and how to be a better conversationalist.
while perusing the book, I noted down the tools and techniques that stuck or I believe they are good to know and practice.
- be a mind and body Jedi; train to smile, direct your eyes, and use your body language to create a positive feedback loop on how you feel about yourself, which in turn makes a difference in how you are perceived by others.
- a word detective is a required skill for any aspiring conversationalist. we talk or mention (in anticipation of talking) things that are dear and interesting to us. all you have to do is pick up on those words and use them as follow-up questions or statements.
- call a shit a shit. it's pointless hiding behind "safer" words. it's tiring having to always account for context when choosing the synonym of a word. so speak your mind however you please!
- professionals know the lingo of their industry and speak it confidently. it also helps if you want to blend in with a crowd during your spying missions.
- let people speak their minds. don't interrupt with your unique "counter" story that's similar enough that it warrants being told.
- be reactive to who you talk with. a good conversation has matching energies and vibes.
- first impressions count; it might be a painful truth to accept, but that's how our brains work.
- avoid cliches; I think this reinforced my aversion to the mundane and mediocre. coming up with your own metaphors or comparisons is surprisingly fun.
- explain your "thank you"s. example: "thank you for cleaning the dishes, dear".
- add some description to an otherwise dry answer. example: "I'm from Moldova, a country that has recently been granted the EU candidate status."
- for the longest time, I wore my wristwatch on the inside of my hand to use it as a conversation starter to allow people to approach and spark a conversation with me. it worked more times than I care to admit. you can use a fancy scarf, a pin that represents something you believe in or is just plain funny, or anything else that might make you stand out.
- parroting; is a morally debatable technique of repeating the last few words spoken to you either as a form of confirmation or question.
you might be doing some of them instinctively because that's how we are as human beans. some tricks are outdated, socially dubious in the modern cancel culture, or just personality unfitting, but that's the nature of time; it makes society perpetually change.
beware: doing all the above doesn't excuse you from being present in a conversation and caring for what others have to say.
I'm an engineer in both profession and heart, so I like facts, statistics, and algorithms; that's why I believe this book didn't resonate with me more. nonetheless, I was lucky to have this as my first self-development book.