Most people don't know how to listen.
We might hear what someone is saying, but truly listening is almost a forgotten art. Actively listening to someone means reading their body language; it means feeling their emotion and understanding what is happening beyond the words. To be a great conversationalist, one must embrace the art of active listening.
Gen-Y has somewhat of a self-centric way of living life. We invented Facebook, then Twitter, and took it even further with the #selfie. There's nothing wrong with striving to be the center of attention, but in a conversation, you'll get much further by letting go of those inherent selfish ways.
Listen to what someone is saying, and ask questions. Show interest in what he or she has to say. Eventually, you'll spark a lasting topic, and small talk will evolve into a conversation. Mutual interest will spark connections, and connections will drive your network. You will get much further in relationship building if you go down the unselfish route. A few months worth of active listening is worth more than years collecting business cards.
It's simple in theory, but active listening is something most people can't seem to master. If you're constantly waiting to put in your two cents, then chances are, you're not genuinely listening to what the other person is saying.
Two cents is not worth very much, just ask the economy what inflation has done for the penny.
With everyone wanting to share his or her opinions, most of it has just turned into noise. 58 million tweets go out a day. If you're on Twitter, think about how many tweets you engage with over the course of a day, and you'll understand the ridiculousness of 58 million tweets. The best way to get value out of what you want to say is to first value, or at least respect, what others have to say.
What you have to say becomes magically more interesting if you've managed to engage with your audience first. Your audience might be a coworker, a date, your mom, your best friend, or an entire convention full of people. Learn to turn their interests into your own. In a conversation, that usually means feeding someone's self-inquiries before trying to feed your own. Once you've established you care about what the other person has to say, they are much more likely to listen to what you have to say. It's really not that complicated.
Simply acknowledge the other person by encouraging them to speak about themselves or their interests. Find a commonality and jump in. Try to listen for clues to better understand how the conversation is going. Notice body language, gauge the mood in his or her voice, and focus on making the other person comfortable talking with you.
Rise above the noise. Stop and listen. Form genuine relationships. Pretty soon, you'll have masses of people listening to, and actually interested in, what you have to say.
Photo credit: Inception