Join Thankful for… Blog Party Contributor Paula as she chats about being thankful for meaningful conversations.
I came across a quotation the other day by Melody Beattie that read, “gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.”
Her words of wisdom have really stuck with me, and I’m reminded to pause more often and reflect on the things for which I’m grateful. I’m inspired to step out of that rushing stream of time and focus more carefully on all of the incredible things that I have in my life. And when I do this, I experience that very “fullness of life” of which Beattie speaks.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been blessed to spend more time with the people I love. Whether we’re together in person or talking on the telephone, each interaction has been rich and fulfilling. And when I pause to consider what has me feeling most grateful, it is just that: quality time and good conversation.
Today I am thankful for meaningful conversation.
And perhaps that’s not surprising. Science has shown that “happiness and meaningful interactions go hand-in-hand,” and as Gretchen Rubin often reminds us, strong relationships are the secret to happiness.
So how can we foster these valuable interactions? How can we engage in meaningful conversation? Keep reading and discover my top seven strategies today!
7 Simple Tips for Meaningful Conversation
Make Time for Conversation
While this might seem like an obvious suggestion, making time for conversation is something with which many of us struggle. We race from one activity, meeting, or sports practice to the next, and we rarely carve out time to connect. Needless to say, when we don’t make time for meaningful conversation, chances of it happening are quite slim.
Fortunately, there are several simple ways to create an opportunity for that special time.
1. Eat together
My husband Ryan and I have very different schedules, and we often find ourselves dashing from one meeting, appointment, or work obligation to the next. One thing that we try to maintain despite these crazy schedules, however, are our meals together. It’s such a special time for us to connect, laugh, and touch base on how we’re doing, and I look forward to it every day.
If possible, strive to enjoy a regular meal with your loved ones. Allow room for that meaningful conversation to unfold naturally, and watch your relationships further strengthen.
As a piece of advice, try enjoying that meal together without the addition of television as often as possible. And while you’re at it, put those phones away, too. It goes without saying that technology is not the most conducive for encouraging deep dialogue.
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2. Schedule time together
Another great way to ensure a meaningful conversation is to actually schedule time for it to happen.
Now, I’m not saying you must write in your calendar: “Monday 2:00 – have a meaningful conversation with my daughter.” Rather, I’m suggesting that you choose activities throughout your week that provide an opportunity for such occasions to unfold.
Go for a walk with your partner, work on a puzzle with your kids, or meet your best friend for coffee. By scheduling in time together, you ensure space for those connections to occur.
3. Create traditions
I love traditions. They provide that feeling of familiarity, which is key for fostering healthy conversation.
By having a family movie night with your kids every Friday, enjoying a date night each Thursday with your spouse, and having a weekly phone call with your sister every Tuesday afternoon, you create consistency. And with consistency comes comfort and room for deep connection to blossom.
Once you create an opportunity for meaningful dialogue to unfold in your life, it’s now time to foster that connection with some basic conversation strategies.
4. Ask questions
Remember, a meaningful conversation is a two-way street, so make sure that you don’t dominate the discussion. One of the best ways to achieve this is by asking engaging questions. This simple conversational approach shows your genuine interest in the other person, and it encourages them to open up and share a bit more about themselves, their day, their feelings, etc.
As a reminder, try to avoid asking questions that require a single word response. Instead, focus on open-ended questions that allow the other person to expand on their ideas.
For example, rather than picking up your child from school and asking, “how was your day?” Make a simple shift and ask instead, “what was your favorite part of your day?” It’s only a slight adjustment, but it makes all the difference.
5. Use I statements
Should you find yourself in a disagreement with someone else, try not to shut them out, or “win” the conversation by yelling the loudest. Simply put, neither option is effective.
Instead, flip the script. Find the common ground toward which you are both working, and start using “I statements” to describe your own feelings instead.
If you and your partner are arguing over household chores, for example, first take a minute to recognize your common ground. You both love each other. And you are both doing your best.
This is a key reminder: we are all doing out best.
Once you’ve established that connection, then it’s time to take ownership of your feelings. And the best way to approach this is with “I” statements.
So rather than saying, “you never help out with the cleaning around here, and it’s not fair.” Instead try, “I feel worn out. I’m frustrated that I have to take care of everything around the house in addition to XYZ. It makes me feel unappreciated.”
By shifting the focus to you and your feelings, you move away from “attack mode.” This allows the other person to better understand your perspective, and it encourages them to let down their guard and open up, too.
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Have you ever tried to have an important conversation with someone, but you had to compete with the television, the phone, or the computer as well?
It’s hard, isn’t it?
One of the most important skills when it comes to having a meaningful conversation is being an engaged listener. Avoid passively nodding along and offering a noncommittal “uh huh” or “yeah” every now and then.
To be blunt, this behavior is rude. But more importantly, it’s telling the other person that they come second to whatever is getting your primary focus.
And let’s be honest, is that latest Facebook update, football play, or email more important than the person who wants to talk with you? While there may be exceptions, I’m willing to bet that 9 times out of 10, it’s not.
So rather than being a passive listener, give all of your focus to the conversation at hand.
Turn off the television. Close your laptop. And silence your phone.
Then, demonstrate with your body language that you’re fully invested in the discussion. Make eye contact, nod along, make appropriate facial expressions (smiles, frowns, etc.) and lean forward slightly, demonstrating your interest.
Allow room for your partner to share their story, without interruption, and then offer your own feedback when the speaker is finished.
Feedback, however, does not mean judgment. Rather, reflect on what your partner has said and then repeat it back to them.
For example, “what I’m hearing is…” or “do you mean that….”
By offering this feedback without providing any judgment, you create a safe space for the other person to explore their ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
7. Show empathy
While you practice engaged listening, also challenge yourself to offer empathy for the situation.
Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes, so to speak, so you can better understand their emotions. Then, offer appropriate responses. “That must be hard.” “I can understand why you’re feeling that way.” “That’s amazing! You must be absolutely thrilled!”
This type of engaged, empathetic support not only helps you better understand the circumstances, but it also creates a deeper connection between you and the other person, which further strengthens your valuable bond.
As we kick off the month of December filled with opportunities for connection, I challenge you to seek out more meaningful conversation. Make time for the special people in your life. Be an engaged listener. And practice empathy. I’m willing to bet that the gratitude you feel for your relationships, your stronger connections, and your life overall, will fill you with joy.
Want some extra guidance to practice daily gratitude? Then download this free 7-day gratitude journal, which is filled with prompts to help you reflect on all the positive relationships that fill your life.
What are your favorite strategies for meaningful conversation? What is one of your most memorable conversations? What are you grateful for today? Let me know below!
Paula Engebretson is the voice behind I’m Busy Being Awesome, a resource for busy women looking for balance in their lives. Working together, they create strategies to manage their time, get organized, maximize their productivity, and find time for fun.
Join her at I’m Busy Being Awesome and follower her on Facebook and Instagram @imbusybeingawesome.