Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and felt like you were watching them bang a tennis ball against a wall?
Sure you were there, but you weren’t exactly involved in the game.
Good conversations are much like tennis – back and forth rallies, slowly building in speed, complexity, enjoyment and skill.
The best rallies seem to go on forever, leaving both players feeling satisfied and entertained. And, the best rallies often don’t need a winner. As tennis commentators would say – ‘tennis was the real winner there’.
But, these days, it seems as though many of us have forgotten how to play conversational tennis.
When our playing partner serves to us, rather than hitting the ball back, we start telling a story, or regaling our favourite anecdote, or ‘venting’.
We instinctively default to ‘impress/intimidate the opponent’ mode, and in doing so, we take the proverbial ball, and we start hitting it against a wall.
Sure they might nod and smile, and maybe even try to interject occasionally, but without being able to actually hit the ball, they soon start to feel like a wall.
And unless they are willing to steal the ball back themselves (which leaves you both feeling frustrated), the game will likely end with one (or both) of you getting bored.
The reality is, no one wants to watch someone else practice their ground strokes, no matter how fascinating or entertaining that may be.
We want to volley, to lob, to learn about the other person’s game by actually experiencing it, not just watching it.
The skill of tennis is knowing when to volley (with a quick follow-up question) and when to hit a ground stroke (add complexity to the conversation with your own thoughts/feelings/experiences).
When you start to view each conversation as a tennis match, your entire approach changes. Rather than worrying about who is the better player, you start building a rally.
Try out a few volleys (tell me more style q’s), lob (pause to think), open your shoulders (mindset), hit expansively (think laterally) and take turns hitting the ball (being heard).
These tennis skills form part of the ‘Hacks’ section of the Pathways Through a Mental Jungle Conference Keynote – as building strong communication skills (and Habits) are essential to creating a diverse social and business network. To enquire about having Simply Psyched present at your next conference, use the contact us form at the bottom of the homepage.
Lastly, remember, while hitting a ball against a wall might improve your stroke (story) quality, it makes you pretty shitty tennis partner.