Actively talk to people when traveling… and socializing

Recently I'm traveling a little more than usual: two trips to Japan just this year, one to California, and quite a few in Europe... so I get to meet people on the planes. What I found out is that I need to actively engage more in conversations with strangers than I used to… and I can learn a lot from them.

I'm a talkative person

I talk a lot and fast. Whether it's in my mother tongue Polish, English, Spanish or German… I talk a lot. And I like talking… and as with folks like me, we need to learn to listen. I found that recent traveling has been a great exercise for me to do just that - listen to people.

It's so easy to talk about yourself

With so much stuff on my plate recently I have a lot to talk about… but I found out that when I actively shift the conversation to asking good questions the person I'm talking to, I can learn a lot. Interesting, huh?

When people ask me what I do, I used to go on and on about my app, the magazine and other stuff… and now I just explain briefly and ask a question back. Curiously enough, the person next to me is happy to talk about themselves.

Actively remembering to ask question

It sounds strange, but I found out that when I talk for more than one minute I realize it's not what I should be doing… and I quickly try to finish my line of thought and ask a question. It's actually not that easy to ask good questions, but I do try to practice.

I try to avoid subjects like: weather (although you can start with that, the subject will dry out soon) or politics, but anything else is good. Especially to find out what the other person is passionate about.

To learn from passion

My best conversations have been when I managed to ask the right questions to find out what the other person was passionate about. From there it's really easy - the conversation flows naturally and you learn a lot of new things. As I wrote before, passion attracts passion. If I just talked about myself all the time I'd miss that.

Actively asking questions and directing conversation is not easy.

Especially for a talkative person like me. But it's do-able and it's fun. Especially if you end up listening to someone very passionate about their thing. Again, leading a good conversation is a skill and I'm learning through exercise. I recommend it to you, too.

Do you converse with people easily? Do you ask questions? What did you learn lately from a stranger met while traveling?

I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 (travel)

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Michal Malyszko
Jul 30, 2011 18:35
Remember when we used to talk a lot in a car riding through California? :) But coming back to the topic: yes, listening is a precious skill and asking _real_ questions coming from open heart takes a conversation to a different level.
Michael Sliwinski
Jul 31, 2011 23:14
Listening and asking good questions is a real skill you get through practice and it does take the conversation to a new level. Totally agree with you Michal. Yep, I remember our drive through California and we wouldn't stop talking - it was great fun and a wonderful learning experience as we learned stuff from one another :-)