No matter how old of friends you are with someone, conversations often start off the same: “How are you?” We tend to start off conversations in the right direction and set ourselves up to listen while also leaving room for the other person to take a step in our direction.
From there, conversations tend to get a little monopolized on one side; kind of like social media. So if having a good conversation is like engaging well on social media, then what can we learn about engaging better by learning to have better conversations?
Celeste Headlee, a Radio Host who has taken part in her fair share of conversations sat down for an interview with TEDtalks in which she gives fantastic advice on how to have better conversations.
Headlee notes one important thing: A good conversation is like a game of catch.
What does this mean? Well, basically that a conversation needs to be 50/50. You can’t play catch alone, and you’re going to throw as many as you catch. You have to listen 50% and you need to talk 50% – which is a balance we don’t often achieve in a conversation.
This is exactly what we want when we venture out into the world of Social Media. We want to interact! However, at times it can feel like you’re talking to yourself. Why is that?
First off, not all conversations we start will turn into the philosophical Socratic conversation of a lifetime. That’s okay! Small talk is okay. Headlee notes that eventually someone is going to say something that peaks the other’s interest.
For social media, what we can gather from this is that sometimes you just have to remain present – keep listening and asking. You will hit home as long as you keep showing up.
What about when things seem like they’re going well and then… radio silence (aka awkward silence)? Headlee says this occurs because you have already meandered off-topic and are now at opposite ends of the field.
This happens too in Social Media. Just because you’ve gotten to know your audience doesn’t mean you won’t wander off by mistake every once in a while. Maybe you sell coffee, and make a post about donuts (because coffee and donuts, obviously), which is fine; but then you become obsessed with donuts and think that your audience is just going to follow, only they don’t. They still want to talk about coffee.
Headlee says the best thing to do in this scenario is to pause, and restart.
What about when disagreements occur?
Online (and even in real life) we have a tendency to curate and edit our conversations. We want everyone to have the same opinions and views as us. The truth is that they won’t, and this is a good thing.
When people, or online users, have different views than us it gives us a chance to ask why, and maybe learn something. The point is, don’t just unfollow them immediately. Start a conversation instead.