How to Have Better Conversations

Talking with others about certain issues can be challenging for you or the other person. You may leave such conversations feeling awkward or worse, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Social interaction and language researcher Elizabeth Stokoe, along with colleagues, looked into what we should say and how when talking with others. They have some tips to ensure that your conversations don’t go off the rails.

Do use: some (instead of any)
“Anything else I can do for you?” Sounds like a perfectly reasonable question, doesn’t it? But John Heritage and Jeffrey Robinson, conversation analysts at the University of California, Los Angeles, looked at how doctors use the words “any” and “some” in their final interactions with patients. They found that “Is there something else I can do for you today?” elicited a better response than “Is there anything else?”

“Any” tends to meet with negative responses. Think about meetings you’ve been in – what’s the usual response to “Any questions?” A barrage of engaging ideas or awkward silence? It’s too open-ended; too many possibilities abound. Of course, if you don’t want people to ask you anything, then stick to “Any questions?”

What to say Try not to use “any” if you genuinely want feedback or to open up debate. “What do you think about X?” might be a more specific way of encouraging someone to talk.

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Why You Should Talk to Yourself

Talking to yourself is a good way to reason through problems, so there’s no reason to feel awkward about your big debates you have with yourself while walking down the street. At least according to some new research from a few universities.

This new research in questions stems from Talk­ing Aloud Part­ner Problem-Solving (TAPPS) which is meant to help people reason through problems while a person just listens. It turns out that the partner’s role is negligible.

In recent research on TAPPS, reported in the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas pub­li­ca­tion Research Foun­da­tions, Spring 2011, the author noted that the increased speed and effec­tive­ness of part­ner problem-solving has lit­tle to do with the mon­i­tor and much to do with the prob­lem solver’s own behav­ior; think­ing aloud or TA. The con­stant ver­bal­iza­tion of their thoughts out loud encour­aged the prob­lem solvers to con­tin­u­ously cor­rect faulty steps in logic. The causal mech­a­nism of suc­cess was the problem-solver’s metacognition.

Another study on talk­ing aloud reported in the jour­nal Aging, Neu­ropsy­chol­ogy, and Cog­ni­tion car­ries the intrigu­ing title, “How to Gain Eleven IQ Points in Ten Min­utes: Think­ing Aloud Improves Raven’s Matri­ces Per­for­mance in Older Adult.” At the end of the arti­cle, fol­low­ing the usual iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of study lim­i­ta­tions, the authors stated, “Nonethe­less, these stud­ies pro­vide some evi­dence that indi­vid­u­als with lower fluid abil­ity (e.g., chil­dren and older adults) may ben­e­fit most from con­cur­rent verbalization.”

Read the full article.

Collection of Talks for Inspirational Self-Improvement

Nobody is perfect and everybody can improve their life, the hard part is doing it. Lucky for us Select Courses has a list of 100 talks for self-improvement on topics like how to better respect the environment to relationships and society.

These days, it’s hard to get motivated enough for anything. The economy is down, your savings–if you had any to start with–have probably dwindled, and it’s still easy to get depressed about the housing market, the environment, foreign policy, and even the possibility of sending your kids to college. But that’s exactly why we need inspiration and mood boosters at any cost. Luckily for you, these are free.

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