Thursday, November 13, 2014

Why Talk To Someone You Don't Like

In a perfect world we wouldn't have to talk with anybody we don't like. But most of us go to work and there are people we don't like there. Most of us have to go to a family Thanksgiving every once and a while and there are definitely people we don't like there. But there's the flip side as well; people saying 'I can not handle another family function that Laaaaaaary will be at.' I kinda have an idea of the people that don't like me, and what I find fascinating is that when we bump into each other...they're always talking.

Now to be fair I am totally playing the question game with them, so I am throwing out questions fast and furious. But these people that I kinda know don't really enjoy me......they are the most willing to just blab on.

First and foremost, what I think they are trying to do is establish their superiority and so they talk about themselves. It's like they are trying to set themselves up to be the Alpha in the conversation. We hear people do this - talking about their big work projects or athletic feats. It could also be talking about their big social conquests. "Yeah, the Eagles sounded awesome last night from my front row seats at the concert."

Second these people could be blabbing on because it might be a contentious family relationship and so they are nervous and they're just talking and talking out of uncertainty.

Third, it could just be a control thing. If they talk, they think they are in control. 

But it's completely backwards to blab on to someone you don't like!

I am not trying to lead a seminar on how to deal with difficult people OR endorsing a plan to keep your enemies close OR telling you to bypass the counselors office for dealing with all the people that have wronged you. All I am suggesting is that there is a better way to get through conversations with people you aren't necessarily in love with.

If there is someone at work that you are adversaries with, why would you share anything personal with that person? And let's just pretend you're both sales people; something you say could give them an edge up on a client you are both chasing after. 

The actual power-person in a conversation is not the one talking, it's the one directing the conversation. So, why not find out all you can about your adversary? Once again, I wouldn't go out of my way to talk to them, but if I bumped into them in the break room, I would just start probing. Before you know it, they'll spill the beans on their life, you might learn something useful and just that quick, you'll be done with the conversation. And by the way, that person might actually think you're beginning to like them, because people always think you like them if you ask them questions (it doesn't necessarily hurt to have people think you like them.)

The same strategy applies when running into the relative that drives you to gulp down the last of the spiked egg nog. First off, you might actually learn something. Maybe a relative is a computer nerd, just ask them every question you wanted to know about computers. Got a cousin in the insurance business, pepper him with questions about whether you are getting a good deal from your insurance broker.

Second, Thanksgiving is a long day. You gotta kill the time somehow because your mother-in-law is only going to let you watch football for so long. 

The more questions you ask, the more you will fill up your database of information so you can ask more questions at the next awkward family get together. "Hey the last time we talked you said you were going to start a stamp collection, how's that going"? 

If your mother-in-law sees you talking with Uncle Vinny for a long time, she'll give you major points for trying to make the holiday special and all you did was ask Vinny about stamps.

There is an actual real reason to ask questions when you're faced with someone you will never be best friends with - practice. As I've stated about a million times, Americans are awful at asking questions. Why not use the time to see if you can develop some curiosity about a subject you don't necessarily care about. If you can do it with a person who ranks low on your totem poll, you'll be better at it when you're around people you actually care about.

Here is the flip side of not asking questions to a person you don't really get along with -- you'll be the one talking and guess what...they're probably not listening. They didn't care what you had to say in the first place, and nothing you tell them about your last family vacation is going to change that. Don't waste your words! Let them waste their words!

Here is the best reason to let someone you don't really admire can day dream. Seriously! Some people are so clueless that they are jabbering away, and they won't have any clue that you are not paying attention. I mean it, you can literally ask a question and then check out. Day dream about your perfect vacation. Think about what you're going to do with your tax return. Just make sure not to yawn, make sure to keep eye contact and nod every now and again, and make sure you don't ever scowl.