Being present during a conversation means more than just being physically there. It means being an active participant in the conversation, even if you don’t have to say anything.
There is one teacher at the school who I always visit either first or last, never in the middle, on my “reporting rounds”. Which end depends on what my day was like, what I have to report and how many other teachers need to be reported to that day. The reason for this is simple: he is the most “present” person in my school community.
His class has the largest concentration of highly active students in the higher grades of the school. This is why he is an everyday visit. It has actually become such of a routine to go to his classroom that I have stopped by his room before just to say “there is nothing you need to be made aware of”, which is actually something in itself.
As someone who works in the school but is not a teacher, there are times when I feel like I am looked down upon. My conversations with Mr D make me feel just the opposite. His conversation skills make me feel like every word I have to say is important (which I guess it is).
Some things that Mr D does (or at least fakes REALLY well) that make my conversations with him feel truly productive and can help anyone be a better conversationalist are:
1. Make eye contact. Sounds simple, but as someone who also works in customer service, I can tell you it isn’t. 90% of the time a conscious decision and effort must be made to do this. He makes it seem effortless!
2. Even with constant interruptions (which is a given with his class) remain focused and on topic. Ask others to wait if necessary.
3. At least appear to be organizing, processing and mentally filing the information bringing provided. This is more difficult than it seems as well. It’s kind of like a little flick of the eyes similar to when someone is reading. (I’ve seen my sister do this in lots of conversations too!)
4. Repeat words back to show you understand what you are being told. Using a whole phrase isn’t necessary. A word or two used in the same context with paraphrasing shows that you have been listening, processing, understanding and valuing the conversation.
5. Use your manners! I know, this should go for anything, but a conversation without manners and “real words” instantly devalues whatever is being said, no matter if it’s the speaker or the listener who isn’t using their manners.
6. Speak clearly: enunciate and maintain a comfortable volume. Make sure one word can be distinguished from the next otherwise it can appear as if you are muttering to avoid making a direct comment pertaining to the conversation. A comfortable volume is usually found in the other person in the conversation. The volume they are speaking with is generally the volume they can hear best as well.
Do you have someone who is easier to have a conversation with than anyone else (not counting best friends)? Next time you have a conversation with them, observe the things that make the conversation work…let me know if I missed anything!
Oh, and for all your conversations, I encourage you to try to be as present as you can be!
No matter how dark the day, the sun is always shining somewhere!