„You can make more friends in 2 months by becoming more interested in other people than you can in 2 years by trying to get people interested in you“. – Dale Carnegie
Are you searching for answers how to develop great conversational skills?
Are you curious what habits lead you to honest conversations?
Then this might be of interest to you.
Friendship Develops on the Side Line
Last fall I participated in the 11th Euro-Arab Gathering in the Sultanate of Oman. That was a conference on enhancing intercultural meetings of youth and young adults of the European and Arab regions.
It was a challenging conference because delegates from 25 different countries were present. We were merging more than 25 different approaches on how to host an international event and working towards a successful outcome.
Although enhancing intercultural encounters was the main reason for this gathering, developing friendship among the participants was obviously not part of the conference. There was just no time for that during the day.
18 Habits Create a Trusting Conversation
At night some of us went to the beach in Muscat. We sat together, drank freshly pressed lemon-mint juices, tea or water and shared a nargile. We adapted to the lifestyle of Oman.
We were open-minded people from Oman, Palestine, Italy, Poland, Croatia, Spain, Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom and Germany.
Already during the first night out, we spoke in depth about peace in Palestine and Israel. It was a heated and highly emotional discussion. I was amazed that we dared to speak freely of the necessity of meetings between Palestinian and Israeli people.
It is an objective of conflict transformation to bring people together who are in conflict with each other. Inviting them to listen to each other, not necessarily understanding the pain points but acknowledging them.
My new Palestinian friend was absolutely not interested in that suggestion! Based on his very own experience of living under the destructive force of the occupation of Palestine. Why should he? – Why would he acknowledge their pain?
From his perspective no other people is being treated as badly as his people. From his perspective there might never be a chance for peace.
I felt with him and disagreed.
Then my new Polish friends took over. They told us about their experiences growing up in Poland after World War II. They told us about their lives during the forced displacement. They were oppressed by Germany and later by Russia. Their own government used their military to force Poles into moving to the middle of Poland, thereby often confiscating household goods and furniture, devaluating ration coupons and using brutal force.
Our heated discussion calmed down immediately.
Both groups, the new friends from France and the Polish, pointed out that it is possible to strive forward in peace with those who have oppressed. They looked at me, the German.
In Europe the peoples have managed to move away from conflict. Our governments in Europe are still working on reconciliation.
And here we are, sitting together: Poles, French and Germans – in Oman – sharing not only nargile but also thoughts, experiences and emotions, engaging in an honest and deep conversation. – Peace is possible.
Let’s Get to the Point!
Here’s a recap of the habits that were in place, when we were at our best:
We were …
- curious (interested in each other’s stories, experiences, ideas and opinions)
- relaxed (relaxed – alert – relaxed)
- empathetic (sad and shocked when we heard each other out)
- actively mirroring each other (gestures, postures, tone, rate of speaking)
- keeping eye-contact
- trusting each other
- keeping it personal
- sharing experiences
- keeping our wording simple and straight forward
- asking questions to avoid misunderstandings
- asking questions to deepen the conversation
- summarizing what was said, signalizing understanding
Are You Interested in Further Reading?
Check these books out:
Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Roger Alies: You Are The Message. Getting What You Want By Being Who You are.
Richard H. Axelrod et al.: You Don’t Have To Do It Alone. How To Involve Others To Get Things Done.