Conversation Skills: How to Have a Great Conversation with Virtually Anyone | Alex Lyon | Skillshare

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Conversation Skills: How to Have a Great Conversation with Virtually Anyone

teacher avatar Alex Lyon, Communication Professor

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (21m)
    • 1. Course Overview

    • 2. Do you Monologue or Dialogue?

    • 3. The Art of Asking Good Questions

    • 4. 5 Fs: From

    • 5. 5 Fs: Fun

    • 6. 5 Fs: Fired Up

    • 7. 5 Fs: Future Plans

    • 8. 5 Fs: Follow Ups

    • 9. Your Final Project

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About This Class

You will learn easy, time-tested conversation skills to generate an interesting back-and-forth conversation with virtually anybody you meet. It works especially well if you aren't sure what to talk about. The lessons are concise and hands-on. Each video ends with a brief task you can do in just a few minutes. The class moves quickly and is extremely practical. Conversational skills are learnable! Anybody can get better with a little effort and the right guidance. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Alex Lyon

Communication Professor


Hello there, friend. I make courses to help emerging leaders build their communication skills. I believe that good leadership and communication change lives. I formed this belief when I was young. My first few bosses made a big impact on me. Some of my supervisors were excellent but others had weak leadership skills that made everything worse. Now that I am a leader and supervisor myself, I want to help as many new leaders as possible increase their impact so they can lead their teams with excellence.

I've been teaching college full-time, and consulting and speaking for over 15 years. I published my first book in 2016. 

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1. Course Overview: Hello there. I'm Alex Lyon, and I wanted to tell you a little bit about my background and then tell you what you will get out of this course and how to have a great conversation with virtually anybody in terms of my background. I am a tenured associate professor at a college. That means I specialize in communication. This is what I teach in my classes, and I also do workshops on the side. So this is what I teach clients. I've been teaching this kind of content for almost 20 years. It is a road tested and it works. And I personally use these tips toe have great conversations with the people around me in terms of what you'll get out of this course. The first couple of videos really set up the philosophy behind having a great conversation . And then I give you a series of five quick videos on topics that get people most excited in the most talkative. And then the last video. I'll give you a project, a final homework assignment so that you can take all the ideas in the course and pull them together and go out there and put these tips into use. The course moves pretty quickly. And in fact, what I like to do now is suggest you jump right into the next video. I will see you there. 2. Do you Monologue or Dialogue?: in this video, we're going to talk about a really important concept for creating great conversations. We're going to talk about the difference between monologue and dialogue. So when we are monologue ing at somebody, we're not going to recreate a good conversation. Monologue is where you just talk at somebody the entire time. Maybe you're trying to tell them stories or tell them what's going on with you and essentially you start overwhelming them with a really long talking turn. That's not the direction that you want to go in. If your goal is to have a great conversation, you want to pivot your mind over and start thinking about creating a dialogue. A dialogue is where you have a mutual exchange of ideas where both people are contributing about equal to the conversation where you have lots of turn taking so that you share that speaking time and I guarantee the best conversations that you have ever had in your life. If you were to look back at them, you would see that there was this dialogue pattern of back and forth in the conversation, and so that's what we want to strive for and the rest of the videos. We're going to look at some specific strategies to create lots of back and forth in the Meanwhile, you have a short homework assignment. I want you to do a self evaluation after the video. Ask yourself honestly, Do I tend to monologue at people when I'm having trying to have a good conversation or just talk a lot? Or do I dialogue? Am I looking for ways tohave frequent talking turns in a genuine back and forth? That back and forth pattern is what energizes conversations and makes them great. So go ahead after you finish the video and ask yourself that question. Do I monologue or dialogue? I'll see you in the next video. 3. The Art of Asking Good Questions: in this video, we're going to talk about the driving force behind good conversations. When we are having a wonderful back and forth dialogue with another person, while we're probably doing is we're asking good questions or they perhaps are asking good questions that we are answering. Good questions are the fuel of great conversations. So here's usually the way it works. Like you've seen interview shows, talk shows on television, the host asked the person in question, and then they answer it. And then typically, the hosts either asks another question, or they make some kind of comment. Or they chime in on what the person originally said. And the question and answer back and forth. Pattern is really the secret to creating a great dialogue. You don't have to come up with something super interesting to say to have a great conversation. The best and really easiest strategy is coming up with great questions. So there are two essential kinds of questions that you can ask in a conversation, and the first type of question is not necessarily going to help you all that much. And that's those air closed ended questions, any kinds of questions that can be answered in like one word. Yes or no, an either or choice. A little fill in the blank. Those don't tend to be great conversation starter, so you want to avoid close into questions, but you can use them as a jumping off place to get at what we call open ended questions. Open ended questions tend to start with how, what or sometimes why you have to be careful asking, why questions? Because sometimes it can put people on the defensive. But sometimes they're useful. How questions or what questions? So let's say you asking about where somebody is from. You say so where you're from, and then they tell you all want from New Paltz, and then you ask an open ended question. He say, What's new parts like That's an open ended question. It starts with a what? Oh, how did you end up in New Paltz? How open in a question, and that is going to lead to a great back and forth. See the secret to an open and the question is that you can't really answer it in one or two words. That takes a little bit of explanation, and that starts generating conversation between both of you. Now, once the person answers the question you can either than just like a talk show host, you can either than make a comment or add to what they're saying. Or you can simply ask another question that you have in mind. So questions are the driving force behind great dialogue conversations. But I have found that people almost never asked me questions in a conversation. They don't say anything. They just stand there. So a lot of times I'll ask a really good question, they'll answer it. And then they just look at me like they don't know what to do after that. And I learned a long time ago if I wanted to have a great conversation to keep the energy going, I had to ask some questions to keep that dialogue flowing and moving forward. So your homework assignment for this is another self evaluation. Do you ask questions in conversation? Be honest with yourself and again, don't feel bad. Do you ask the other person questions to see if you can get them to say something back to you in conversation? And if you do what kinds of questions do you generally ask, What do you ask them about to get them talking? Really, That's the secret to creating a great conversation. And then the next few videos will show you the exact kinds of questions that you can ask to keep a conversation moving. We're gonna structure them around what I call the five EFS. Each of the words starts with F as easy way to remember it. So in the next video, after you do your little assignment here and ask yourself, Do you even ask questions than first place? We're gonna look at the questions that all start with the letter F, so let's watch those videos in a couple minutes. 4. 5 Fs: From: Welcome back in this video, we're going to start a series of five videos. They're all about the letter F. In other words, all the topics that we want to ask people about. Start with the letter F and these air topics that I have found over the years really get people talking. And it's just convenient that they all start with the letter F. So the first F is asking people where they are from questions about where they came from. Now you can start with a really brief, closed into question as a jumping off place, like where you're from if you don't already know that. And then when the answer you follow up with the open ended questions that start with how or why or what those kinds of questions that you want to s. For example, once you asked where they're from, they might say New Paltz. Like I was talking to a guy at a party to the day he's from New Paltz, New York, and I said, What's it like in New Paltz? And then he went on and told me all about New Paltz, and I asked him, What is it known for? like What's its reputation? Told me all about what it's known for. And then I asked him, How has New Paltz changed over the years since you were young and boy, he was excited to talk about tourism and all the other changes that have happened in new balls. So you ask people where they're from, and it really opens them up quite a bit. It's a great safe topic. People really enjoy talking about their hometowns, and that's why I usually lead off my conversations with that first f asking people where they are from. In terms of your assignment for this video, I would like you to think of two questions that you can ask somebody about where they are from. You can take them directly from the words I just said, or you can come up with your own versions of these questions. Just make sure at least one of the questions is open ended. You want to make sure you ask a good, open ended question to get people talking. So right after the video, two questions about where someone's from and then practice pretend to ask that in a conversation with an imaginary person. So go and do that now and I'll see you in the next video to talk about the next F 5. 5 Fs: Fun: in this video, we're going to talk about the next F in the line of five EFS, and that is you ask people about what they like to do for fun. Now you can ask this directly, like so what do you like to do for fun? Or you can ask it in a slightly different way, like you might ask. So what do you like to do for hobbies? Or what do you like to do on the weekends? You can say, How do you like to relax and recharge? I find that most people that I run into have a favorite movie or show, and so you could say So what are some of your favorite movies, or what kinds of shows do you like? And the great part about asking people about fun is that usually they get excited about it because it's something they like to do and like to talk about. But the other thing is, typically they don't have to talk for too long before you can find something in common with them. So let's say they say, Oh, I love to go camping or these are the kinds of movies I like. Oftentimes you can see yourself and some commonality and what they're saying, and that gives you a chance to jump in with your own two cents about the topic, like some of the things you like to do for fun that might line up with what they're already talking about, so that lots of great reasons to ask about what people do for fun. And your task for this video is to jot down to questions about how you can ask people what they do for fun. You can change the wording however you want. Make sure they're open ended questions and make sure they drive at people's recreation and leisure type of activities. You can pull them right from video, or you can come up with them on the road. So after you stop the video, go ahead and take a couple of minutes and draft those out and then practice asking that in a pretend conversation. And I'll see you in the next video to talk about the next F in the line 6. 5 Fs: Fired Up: in this video, we're going to talk about the next topic that you can ask other people about in a conversation. And it also starts with F. Well, it sort of starts with F. We're going to ask people questions about what fires them up now. Granted, that's a little bit of a stretch, but here's what I mean by that. When you're in a conversation with someone, you will see that certain topics get them really excited. They get really passionate, and they light up a little bit about a certain topic. That's what I mean, that it fires them up. So when I'm asking questions in a normal conversation, I look for that topic that really gets them extra excited. And then I ask follow ups about that topic to get them talking a little bit more. And this creates a lot of positive energy in the conversation and gets them excited. Now, a couple of warnings that I want to give you. I typically avoid controversial topics. I avoid politics. I avoid anything heavy. You want to ask them positive kinds of questions about topics that they enjoy the the sunny side of what fires them up and gets them excited. That's the way to do it. You also don't want to dig into this to directly or too quickly. Like I once saw at a party. This guy was hitting on my wife. This other guy is. Before we were married, we were just dating and he came up to her. And the very first conference conversation questioning Astra was. So what's your cash? And I thought, Oh my goodness, You like you got a warm up to that a little bit. So I typically don't lead with these weird, heavy, probing questions. I just look at what they're already getting excited about in the conversation, and then I ask, follow up questions about that. I keep it light. I keep it fun and engaging. So your practice homework assignment here is. Since you don't have anyone, maybe you're actually having a conversation with right now. What I want you to do is write down two topics that get you fired up where two of your favorite topics to talk about and then I want you to picture somebody asking you about those topics and how that would make you feel chances are you would begin to light up and have a lot of positive back and forth energy in that conversation. So go ahead and do that. Now write down two of your favorite topics to talk about and how it would make you feel if somebody brought this up in a conversation and I will see you in the next video. 7. 5 Fs: Future Plans: in this video. We're talking about the fourth F in our Siris on great topics, to ask people about in a conversation to create a wonderful back and forth dialogue and this F stands for future plans. In other words, you want to ask people what they're up to this coming weekend, what they're up to over the vacation that's coming up. Do they have any travel plans over the summer? You don't want to ask them about their future plans of life like So what's in your future again? You want to keep these conversations light and fun and engaging, not too heavy. Now I find that right before a weekend, it's great topic to ask people about what they're doing over the weekend. So do you have any weekend plans or what are you up to this weekend, right before a vacation last them the same thing. So what kind of plans you have for this vacation? Or how are you going to span spend this vacation asking about that future plan if it's right before the summer like I'm a college teacher and so I don't see people over the summer that I see during the normal year, so I would ask that So do you have any travel plans this summer? What's on schedule for you this summer? Asking about what's in their immediate future is a great way to engage them in conversation because they get really excited about it. So that's one of the ways that you can start a conversation. And here's a little bonus tip, if you will, I find it's great toe. Ask plans about what they're up to in the immediate future toward the end of a conversation . So if you're about to wrap a conversation up, I have noticed that really skilled people in a conversation will begin to ask about what's next for that person. So what you have to later tonight, or what do you have on deck for this weekend? And that signals that the conversation is starting to wind down and move to a close. That's one of the last S. That's the fourth f. We'll talk about asking about their future plans and again, just for what's right around the corner for them. Get them excited, and then you can chime in and talk about what's in your immediate future, what you're up to that weekend and again develop that nice back and forth in the conversation. So your task for this video is to write down to questions that you can ask and word them however you want, where you're asking people about what's next for them this evening, this weekend or over this next vacation. So good do that now, and I'll see you in the next video for the final F in our Siri's. 8. 5 Fs: Follow Ups: in this video, we're going to talk about the fifth and final F in our Siris of what topics you can ask people about in a conversation, and this one starts with F as well. But it stands for follow ups you want to ask follow up questions in any conversation that you're having because it will keep the momentum going and the conversation flowing back and forth. So there's a couple of ways to do this. But the easiest way to do it as to ask them any of the other kinds of questions that we've been talking about. And then when they're answering the question, they're going to give you information. They're going to give you content that you can hear and use as a jumping off place toe ask a follow up question. So in a different video, I was talking about how I was having a conversation with this guy from New Paltz and one of the things he talked about and when I asked him about were, is from was his job. He talked about being a police officer, so that's a great follow up topics, I asked him. Oh, so how did you get into becoming a police officer. What made you want to be a police officer? He gave me some content, and I used it as a jumping off place for follow up content. And then he told me, by the way, a little bit more about being a police officer. And then I asked another follow up question like, So, how long have you been on the force? Or how long do you plan to be be a police officer, cause I know a lot of police officers retire after, like, 2025 years, and he said that he was getting toward that age where he was thinking about his next step. So I asked a whole bunch of follow up questions about that initial topic. So any time someone is talking to you, they're giving you information that you can use as a jumping off place to show that you're interested in that person that you care about that person that you want to find out more. The other way you can follow up, however, is that you can follow up, not by asking them another question, but you can follow up with a comment of your own so if he was talking about his job, I could follow up by telling him a little bit about my job. If he was talking about something he liked to do on the weekend, I could share about something that I like to do for fun on the weekend so you can follow up by asking another question. Or you can follow up by taking your own, turning the conversation and charming in with some of your own input. And, by the way, a little bonus tip The next time you see that person another way that you can follow up has asked them more about it. So let's say they were about to take a little vacation. And then the next time you see them, you follow up to say So how was the vacation? Didn't you tell me you were going to go to England? And this is just another great way to keep that conversational dialogue going back and forth with those good questions and answers. So asked them follow up questions, and I think you'll see that people really light up and expand the conversation even more. It really shows them you're taking an interest in them and that alone says a lot. So for the homework assignment for your task for this video, I want you to pretend that I just answered a question. Let's pretend you asked me about where I was from. Now I'm going to give you a little bit about information about where I'm from, and I want you to think of a follow up question or two that you get asking about. So let's pretend you asked me about Rhode Island and I'm gonna tell you a little bit about it. Yeah, I'm from Rhode Island. I was actually born and raised there and spent most of my life in Rhode Island, and I finally moved away when I was in my mid twenties. So let's pretend I stopped my talking turn their what are at least one or two follow up questions. You could ask me about that, And if you need to rewind the video to hear some potential jumping off places, then go ahead and do that. I want you to come up with to follow up questions. There's a lot of information, a lot of data that it just gave you in that very brief answer that you can use. So after the video jot down to follow ups that you can ask me about this and then the next video, we're going to wrap this whole Siri's up on how to have a great conversation. I will see you in the closing video. 9. Your Final Project: well, here we are at the end of this course and how to have a great conversation with anybody. I hope that you have found it valuable. I can assure you that I use these strategies every single day in my conversations with other people and nine times out of 10. Using these strategies enabled me to have a great, energetic back and forth conversation with other people. In fact, I'm pretty convinced that as you get better and better at this, you'll see and realize that without asking good questions and looking to create a dialogue , whether people it's very difficult to have a good conversation. Otherwise so here is your final project for this course. I want you to write down three potential opening questions that you can ask somebody in a future conversation. So I want you to pick a real person that you are likely to run into in the next few days and jack down three potential questions that you can ask them. They can be questioned that we've already talked about in the course or because you already know them. You can come up with whatever other kind of question you think would be most appropriate to ask them. So you will be armed with these three questions. And then once you have all three, I want you to pretend, yes, I want you to act out in the privacy of your own home that you're actually asking and these questions. So if you practice it a little bit behind the scenes when you see them, they'll be much more likely to come up. I personally find it helpful that a lot of these topics start with F, but again, you can use whatever strategies you want to. The goal is to begin a nice back and forth dialogue in that conversation, not to talk at them, but to get the ball bouncing back and forth. It has been my pleasure to talk to you about this topic, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and I look forward to seeing you in a future video. Take care