There's always that one person at a dinner party or business event who stands out as interesting, likable and memorable.
You feel great after talking with this person, though you're not sure exactly why. According to behavior researcher and emotional intelligence trainer Vanessa Van Edwards, there is a specific, scientific reason, and it's something anyone can use to win others over.
Memorable people are great at having interesting conversations, which revolve around two things, Van Edwards writes in her book "Captivate."
First, they encourage people to talk about themselves. A study by Harvard neuroscientists Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell found that people would pass up money for the opportunity to talk about themselves.
And second, likable people introduce new or interesting information into conversations, which research by neurobiologists Nico Bunzeck and Emrah Duzel suggests makes people feel good.
To become a sparkling conversationalist yourself, Van Edwards suggests a few simple tricks:
New Harvard research shows that asking questions, particularly follow-up questions, makes you more likable.
Instead of using a typical opening line such as, "How's work?" try something more specific such as, "Working on any exciting projects recently?"
When meeting someone new, instead of defaulting to, "What do you do?" try something like, "Working on any personal passion projects?"
Everyone has topics that really interest them. If you find one when talking with someone, they will probably open up and share stories with you. A way to identify these issues, according to Van Edwards, is by asking the right questions.
Some examples include: "You asked for Argentinian wine, are you a wine aficionado?" and, "You mentioned you volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters — have you always done that?"
You can tell when someone is interested in what you're saying. Those signals, such as nodding your head or smiling, she writes, encourage more conversation. The mere act of smiling triggers the release of dopamine, a mood-boosting hormone, studies show.
To make your conversations interesting, respond with verbal cues such as "interesting" or "fascinating," and use gestures to convey your interest.
"When you produce dopamine during conversation," she writes, "you not only give your partner more enjoyment, you are also assigned more significance, which increases your memorability."
"Without realizing it," Van Edwards says, "we are constantly searching for reasons to think, feel or say, 'Me too!'"
One of the most common ways people end great conversations is by refusing to find things they share with their conversation partner. Avoid being the type of person who says things such as, "You know, I don't really love outdoor sports. They're too exhausting."
If you can't find a common thread, ask questions that get the other person to teach you about a subject, Van Edwards says. At the very least, they will enjoy talking about it and you'll learn something new.
"If we abandon social scripts and push ourselves to use conversational sparks," she writes, "we are more likely to enjoy our interactions and remember what was actually said."
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