How to start a conversation

Conversations are critical for behavior change in communities and organizations. This video and article discusses the art and science (craft) of having conversations that aim to understand the other person. Understanding another is the first step towards persuasion and positive change.

 

 

 

Here are the seven steps of starting and leading a conversation:

 

STEP ONE – GREET

  • Smile when you meet someone.
  • Greet the person respectfully depending on the time of the day
  • Ask the person if they are free to talk

 

STEP TWO – ASK AN OPEN ENDED QUESTION

  • Ask open-ended questions – This will allow the person to speak more. You may ask about what they are interested in. Usually people, through what they wear, carry or say, give us a clue about what they have done in the past or are interested in.
  • Also, one can take a general approach. Ask yourself: What are most people interested in? They are interested in speaking about themselves – their children – their dreams.
  • If you ask a person, ‘What brought you to the bus-stop? They will most likely reply that they have to go to my office or I have to go to out of the city for work. However if you ask open-ended questions that start with WHY or HOW then you are opening up the space for the conversation. For example you can ask: How did you get to the bus stop when there is so much rain today? Such a question will allow the person to speak more. This is want you want.

 

STEP THREE – LISTEN ATTENTIVELY

  • Face the speaker and maintain eye contact
  • Listen attentively to what the other person is saying.
  • Keep an open mind and do not judge the person
  • Do not look here and there. Do not look at your phone or let the phone ring. Keep the phone in silent mode.
  • Do not interrupt and impose solutions
  • Pay attention to the speaker’s body language. If you feel that the person is disinterested change the topic, if they are in a hurry, observe this and take their leave.

 

STEP FOUR – APPRECIATE

  • Make some sounds such as – Ah – Ok – Hmm to show that you are paying attention to the person.
  • Nod at times to show interest.

 

STEP FIVE – SUMMARIZE AND TRY TO INTRODUCE YOUR TOPIC

  • When the person stops speaking – summarize what has been said and repeat it to the person. If the person spoke about the his daughter’s upcoming examination, then listen carefully to what the person says and try to connect the person’s response to your topic. For example – If the person is talking about his daughter’s examination, you can talk about how he is leading the way in the community by providing equal educational opportunities for his daughter and son. Tell him that he is practicing Betigiri and he should be proud of this.
  • Get the other person to think and believe that they are an important part of this process and that you will be able to do your job as a coach only with their help.

 

STEP SIX – HOW TO INTRODUCE CHANGE OR DEAL WITH OBJECTIONS SUCCESSFULLY
Once you get to the topic of a specific behavior or of health you can ask the person about what he or she believes in and then once the person has spoken you ask THREE SIMPLE QUESTIONS, especially when you are talking about the topic of change. You can also use these three questions to deal with any objection regarding the positive health behaviour.

 

QUESTION 1:
Whatever the person says, especially if the person says something that goes against what you want to teach ask: What do you mean by that? Can you please explain?

Do not jump to defend your argument or whatever you wanted to say. That will make the person shut down and he will feel threatened. Simply ask him to explain it further.

 

QUESTION 2:
Then ask: What led you to that conclusion or how did you get that idea?

Try to go deeper into how the person in front of you has come to believe what he or she is saying, which may be the opposite of what you want to coach or teach. In order to change something you have to go inside, go deeper. Keep doing that. Do not try to shut the person down by making an aggressive counter statement.

By asking these two questions you are helping the other person think. Now the person may say I have tried to eat healthy but I have not been able to continue. And now out forward what you want to teach. Instead of replying with a statement, you can ask Question 3.

 

QUESTION 3:
Have you considered the following idea (and make your statement)?

For instance, if the person does not have time to go to the market, you can say: Have you considered buying the vegetables and fruits on your way back from work? Or have you considered making going to the market a healthy option by walking, you get your exercise, and also only going straight to the vegetable and fruit stall so you do not waste any time?

You have given a question as your reply instead of making a statement.

You have essentially allowed the person to speak multiple times and by doing so you have allowed the person to open up to you and also think for themselves. Only, when appropriate you can share what you think and why.

 

STEP SEVEN – END ON A POSITIVE NOTE

  • You will know when your conversation is coming to an end. This will be the time to politely end the conversation and thank the person for sharing their time and thoughts
  • You can even remind the person about the health behaviour and offer any help if required
  • Smile, it will make a big difference.