5 tips to engage yourself in meaningful conversations


Last week I wrote about making the connection between topics that you learn and your daily life, and using that as a conversation topic. Such practice can make any learning received long lasting. Have you tried it?

Today I have 5 tips to engage in richer spoken or written conversations. You can apply these in the YMP and in any other learning context, or social network structure.

1)   DARE to communicate. Dare to be the first one saying something or posting an idea, comment or question. Rich conversations will not just come to you. Someone has to break the ice, to start the conversation. Either you wait, and may wait forever, or you can take the initiative.

Once a Chinese student explained to me that he did not comment on the YMP site because he was afraid of being wrong. He is a great student, but had an unconfident approach! In the worst case your ideas may not fit the conversation if you do not listen or read carefully. Ideas are just ideas, some are useful, some are incomplete, some show a totally different approach, some are out of context, and others are just bad ideas. So what? You are learning! But, how could you know if you don’t dare to share what you think? The person listening will likely tell you with her/his response. We do not need to be right all the time, unless you are writing answers on an exam!  We gain a sense of what can be more adequate or reasonable through engaging in richer conversations.

2)   ASK! Ask for clarification, for examples, for suggestions, ask why, why not. Use all the other “wh” questions (who, what, where, which, when, how).  The key to asking is involvement and curiosity.  Listening and reading carefully will likely result in questions. Many times there is a deeper message behind what people write and say. Sometimes people´s ideas are unclear, or do not make sense to you. You notice that when you pay attention. That gives you opportunity to ask.

3)   MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THE MESSAGE. Sometimes we think we understand what someone else wrote or said, but we don´t.  Because we are using our own expectations, beliefs, and our own understanding of the world instead of seeing things through the other person’s perspective and context. A word may mean something different to two different people, even if they share the same culture and background. Always ask what the other means with any specific word if the message is unclear.

It is helpful to confirm whether you understood correctly. For example, ask- “are you saying that … ?” This will also help the other person clarify her/his message and a richer conversation can begin!

4)   GO BEYOND “JUDGING”. There is no conversation invite in comments such as “good work”, “it is not clear”, “there´s lack of effort”. Go beyond; explain why you think that a comment, or assignment if you are in the YMP, is good or poor, in your opinion. Be specific on what is not clear to you, why you think there was no effort.  Identifying strengths and weaknesses, and being able to elaborate on them are valuable skills to develop. Take it even further and suggest how to improve. That is very constructive and trains your creativity!

5)   FOCUS ON THE IDEA NOT ON THE PERSON. There is a distinction between the message and the messenger. Different ideas and comments (messages) help us see different angles of a subject. By focusing on the message and commenting on it we can better understand the suggested angle. Whereas, focusing on the person (messenger) puts the idea in second place and distracts us. So you can tell someone “what you said does not apply to the problem because of … have you thought about … ?” instead of  “you are wrong”. Do you see the difference? The first suggestion focuses on the message and gives place for the idea to evolve. The second one, focuses on the person and can mislead the conversation.

In a nutshell, what I am saying is that courage, curiosity, understanding of the other person´s  perspective, going beyond judgement, and focusing on the message can lead you to richer conversations.

What was your last most engaging conversation and what made it so interesting? Share with us!

Practice these tips: If you are in the YMP find a “share and learn” post every Friday on your YMP global classroom, comment on it, use the ideas in this article, engage in rich conversations, and get some credits doing so!

What is coming? Next week we will have a guest YMP teacher blogger. He will tell us about being a YMP teacher in a foreign country.

Do you have a comment to this article? Share with us, just click on “Leave a reply

Written by: Paola Mendoza at YMP Team

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