Dinner-party talk

Dinner-party talk

Once again, who and how many individuals to invite should be based on the objective of the event. Although it may be tempting to declare “the more the merrier” and invite everyone, this may not serve your goal of making lasting connections with your guests. I like a group of six for an intimate dinner table talk—enough it’s people for a vibrant conversation but not so many that the group instantly splits off into lots of side conversations.

Or, perhaps you want to invite 25 people to a full-fledged party—in this case, you’ll want to consider the dynamic among the folks you’re inviting. For example, if there will be people who arrive without knowing anyone, you may invite a couple of people who are always willing to go out of their way to meet new people. And, as the host, you may foster an environment that encourages people to get to know one another. Perhaps you might intervene and start a conversation by assisting them in finding common ground. If someone is standing back, you can bring them into the conversation on purpose.

Encourage openness

Because our editors summit was only 48 hours long, I had to think of ways to “speed pace” connection and vulnerability. The enneagram comes into play. Elle Worsham, a friend of mine, is an Enneagram Coach who specializes in helping groups understand their “types” in order to deepen connections and reach their actual potential. On the first day, she joined us for a workshop where we learned about the framework and discussed how our enneagram type was assisting or impeding our personal progress. It was a great way for us to learn more about each other’s stories and better understand our colleagues’ anxieties and motivations. Conversations seemed deeper and more vulnerable for the rest of our time together since we’d begun by establishing this circle of trust.

Of course, an enneagram workshop is not appropriate for every occasion (lol.) However, there are numerous subtle methods to urge a group to become vulnerable, moving fast beyond casual conversation. Daring to ask the group a question that may appear to be a little intense at first. The host of one New Year’s Eve dinner I attended invited everyone to walk around the table and discuss one thing they wanted to leave behind from the previous year and the one thing they wanted to bring with them.

Sometimes it’s as easy as “making the first move” in vulnerability by exposing something personal about yourself. According to science, when you reveal something personal about yourself, others are more likely to reciprocate.

Be truly interested

This is the next, and most important, step once you’ve gathered your discussion starters. When you bring up that person’s new puppy or inquire about their thoughts on this season of Ted Lasso, it’s time to listen. And I mean truly listen, not just to the words they’re saying, but also to their body language and the message they’re conveying. Then, of course, follow your curiosity! When you become interested in someone, follow-up questions will arise, and the conversation will flow more naturally than you could have imagined.

Instead of facts, invite others to share their tales

Inquiring about facts usually results in a dead-end conversation. For example, asking “Did you find it okay?” Or “How old are your kids?” Can get a brief response that leaves you nodding your head, unsure of what to say next. Asking someone to share a tale, on the other hand, immediately opens up the dialogue to go further. “What was the highlight of your week?” For example. “Tell me some things you’re enjoying about your kids right now,” for example, indicates a great deal about your conversation partner.

And the “norm of reciprocity” applies here as well! If you come prepared with a handful of stories about what you’ve been up to or anything significant that’s happened to you recently, folks are more inclined to respond with their own anecdotes.

Avoid the question “what do you do?”

I get that you truly want to know what they do for a living… and there’s nothing wrong with that! However, it’s difficult to ask this question without making the other person feel judged, which isn’t the ideal method to create trust and vulnerability in the early stages of a dialogue. Besides, merely discussing people’s occupations is a definite way to make a conversation uninteresting! Instead, consider asking individuals open-ended questions about themselves, such as “What do you like to do for fun?” Or “Where is your favorite spot you’ve ever visited?”

Everything except the weather

We’ve all done it: there’s a pause in the discussion, and you interrupt with, “How about the gorgeous weather this week?” “Can you believe it’s raining?” However, in my experience, you should avoid talking about the weather at all costs, because there is no more certain method to send a conversation straight into dullville, from which you may never return.

Be willing to consider alternative viewpoints

Avoiding trivial conversation may bring you into territory that may generate disagreement—and, according to common belief, this is just fine! I know it might be frightening for many of us, but when you approach a different point of view with openness, it doesn’t have to be damaging to a relationship; in fact, it can strengthen it when both parties feel heard and appreciated.

It is not your responsibility to convert anyone else to your point of view. Try just listening instead!