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How you can add value to any conversation — according to Ramit Sethi

In his course, How To Talk To Anybody, Ramit Sethi has a video lesson that's a role-play. In this role-play, he helps one of his students practice keeping the conversation going.

RAMIT DOESN'T EXPLAIN HIS SOCIAL STRATEGY

The problem that I had with this lesson (which also influenced the star rating I gave) is that he doesn't explain the "why" behind any of his social decisions. The student will say a sentence and then Ramit will break character and say, "OK, where do I go from here." And, he'd say empathize, but wouldn't say how.

So, the student being in the same position of confusion I was in, Ramit said, "Let's switch roles." And, at that point, he'd say a sentence that would keep the conversation going, but wouldn't explain why his sentences worked as opposed to the student's.

In my opinion, this can be hard because, ultimately, it's up to the receiver if they decide to respond to what you say or not. So, understanding why one sentence elicits a response and another doesn't can be difficult for social beginners like me.

MY ANALYSIS ON HOW RAMIT KEEPS CONVERSATIONS GOING

Based on my analysis and a few of Ramit's notes, Ramit keeps the conversation going with two engaging questions and then a statement.

As Daniel Pink notes, questions are inherently engaging. So, you're almost always guaranteed to get a response by asking a question. But, you don't want to turn the conversation into an interview, so mixing in a few statements can be good.

*Note: Ramit calls the act of only relying on questions to keep the conversation going "TMQ Syndrome" (i.e. "Too Many Questions Syndrome).

Yet, in my experience, a statement can kill a conversation if it's not well crafted or if the other side simply doesn't know what to do with the statement made.

USE STATEMENTS (OPINIONS) TO ADD VALUE TO ANY CONVERSATION

From what I've seen, Ramit uses the social exchange theory to decide what his next statement in the conversation will be:

Lucio: "The social exchange theory is a framework model that looks at social relationships as exchanges among individuals who seek to maximize their selfish interests."

So, Ramit often makes his statements opinions. And, that's because one's opinion can influence another person's perceptions to add value to their life which would advance their self-interests.

In other words, by giving someone your opinion, the receiver is getting the same value that they would get from exchanging ideas or partaking in a "brainstorm session".

WHY SELF-PROMOTIONAL STATEMENTS FAIL

I believe this is also why anti-social self-promotion such as bragging doesn't work. Someone says, "I own a company that's done XYZ in revenue so far this year, blah, blah, blah...," and they think, "What am I supposed to do with this information? It has nothing to do with me." So, not knowing what to say, they stay silent and the conversation stops unless the talker:

  1. Ties his self-promotion into the receiver
  2. Asks a(nother) question
  3. Segways into a story about what inspires him

By, instead, making their statement an opinion such as, "Based on what you've said, I really think you could start your own business. And, maybe...," then it's more obvious how your statement contributes to their self-interests. And, as a result, they'll be more willing to respond even though you're making a statement, not asking a question. Thus, keeping the conversation going.


Dropping this as a note that might get linked to in a possible upcoming review and case study.

If anyone has any thoughts on this to add, I'm more than happy to hear it!

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Lucio Buffalmano
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