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Going deeper

Putting a little extra effort into our spoken communication means a richer and more productive outcome

Snorkelling is the favourite summertime activity for lots of people. But perhaps it isn't the most adventurous pasttime. After all, it takes place mostly on or very close to the surface of the water. It requires almost no equipment. And not a great amount of effort either. Scuba diving, on the other hand, is very different. This activity requires very specific gear and a willingness to literally go to much deeper places. But the extra effort involved is really worth it, because that's where the real treasures often lie.

This is much like our day-to-day conversations with other people. So many of our verbal exchanges happen at the most basic level. On the surface. At best they can be an exchange of facts. At worst they're just a series of hollow words with very little meaning or intent attached to them.

"Hi, how are you?"

"Fine."

"How's your meal, Sir?"

"Okay."

On the other hand, putting a little extra effort into our spoken communication means a richer and more productive outcome. Think about your responses to routine questions. While you might not want to actually tell the whole truth when asked "How are you?", you can choose to respond with something of more value than simply "good" or "well".  Something like; "I'm really well, thanks for asking" or "I had a cold last week but I'm better now. How about you?". The aim is to vary your response so that the other person actually listens to your answer and is interested enough to continue the conversation.

Putting more effort into the phrasing of our own questions can also result in a better conversation. Using more open questions (which require a longer response) in place of closed questions (which require only a one or two-word response) means that more information is exchanged and, hopefully, deeper communication takes place.

For example, a closed question would be; "Are you going out tonight?" The possible answers might be; "Yes", "No" or "Haven't thought about it".

A semi-open version of the same question would be: "Where are you going tonight?" This would hopefully elicit more specific answers, such as; "Dinner", "The movies" or "I feel like a night in".

The open version of the question would be; "How did you choose the restaurant you're going to this evening?" This should give you the most interesting answer; "Well, I really felt like Asian food but wasn't sure what type. So I Googled it and looked on some food websites and discovered a new Vietnamese restaurant that's just opened in Newtown."

While what you say is very important, how you say it also has a big impact on the quality of your conversation. Using a warm tone of voice, varying the pitch, pace and volume of your voice and ensuring that you use good eye contact and appropriate gestures will also enhance the conversation.

Next time you're talking with someone, take the time and effort go a bit deeper. You'll feel all the better for it. And who knows what hidden treasures you may uncover.