“I’m practicing my beginnings, Harvey. Let’s say “Hello” again.”

I’ve been talking about opening a conversation for several blogs. The basic elements are … well, basic, but that doesn’t mean that they’re generally used. Not by a long shot. You say you know how to open a conversation? You probably do, but do you practice it? Here are the big four elements of opening:

Four Simple Steps

  1. Make Eye Contact
  2. Smile
  3. Learn and Use the Person’s Name (Ask if you don’t know it.)
  4. Use appropriate verbal or non-verbal gestures of greeting

Eye contact: It comes easily to some, not to others. Doesn’t need to be a five-minute stare. I like to look for a special feature of the eyes. Learn their color, shape, or size. It gives me an instant feeling of connection. Try it.

Smile: If you have a smile in you, let it out. Even if it’s in hiding. I don’t mean a false smile, just the one that’s waiting to escape. Not a toothpaste smile. Just enough to open the heart.

Learn the name and use it. Ask if you don’t know: If it’s going to be a one-minute exchange, ok. But if you’re going to have a conversation (you’ll quickly know), then learn the name. And use it. It takes some practice to remember. You have to ask, even if it’s, “I apologize. I know your name but it’s flown away. I’m Peter.” Use it right away. Knowing you’re going to use it, forces you to pay attention “Good to meet you, Sybil.” If you don’t say the name right away, it’s very unlikely you’ll remember it.

Use appropriate verbal or non-verbal gestures or greeting. The key word is appropriate. That may be a brief, “It’s been a while” or “Good to see you.” It may be a handshake, a touch on the arm, a hug or a kiss. Even a small hand gesture, no touch can do well. If you’re unsure, best to under-do in most circumstances.

Why this ritual is Important

The brief greeting ritual may seem trivial. It’s not. It shows respect; it demonstrates acceptance; it acknowledges the moment. It’s the first step to connection. A good opening is an important start towards a good conversation.

What are your thoughts about the greeting? What is easy or difficult for you?

Mindfulness Podcast

If you’re interested in Mindfulness or Mindful Conversation, check out this link to a great, award-winning podcast where I was a recent guest. Bruce and I had a wide ranging and delightful exchange about the Mindful Life and the role of conversation in it.