Add Flavor to Conversation with Spicy Ingredients

“Conversation has a kind of charm about it, an insinuating and insidious something that elicits secrets from us just like love or liquor.”

~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Add Flavor to Conversation with Spicy Ingredients

By Dr. Loren Ekroth

Although ordinary conversation like “weather talk” has a big place in social life (for example, it’s safe and predictable), there is also a place for more interesting and “flavorful” conversation.

My recent visit to New Orleans inspired me to write this article about ways to add zest to make ordinary conversation extraordinary.

My son Aaron and I spent three delightful days in “N’Awlins” in early February. We did walking tours of the French Quarter and the Garden District and also did the River Walk. As well, we dined at some iconic restaurants like K-Paul’s (Chef Paul Prudhomme), The Court of Two Sisters for a Jazz Buffet Brunch, and ate PoBoy sandwiches with grilled oysters. (A plus: I finally learned the differences between cajun and creole cuisine.)

Therefore, I offer you some ingredients and condiments to create more spicy conversations.

— Quotations: I enjoy peppering my conversations with funny words like these by Mark Twain “A fellow who picks a cat up by the tail gets a hundred times more information than one who’s never done it.” or adapting W.C. Fields remark to fit my home area, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in Duluth.”

As appropriate to the topic and situation, consider injecting quotations that fit – either funny or serious ones.

— “If” questions:  “If you could re-do anything in your life, what would it be?”  “If you could choose a different career, what would that be?”

Because If stimulates the imagination within a hypothetical question, you’ll often get amazing responses.

— Unusual business cards make you memorable to strangers you meet.

I use a variety of cards like 1) a round wooden card the size of a poker chip (after all, I live in Las Vegas.) 2) an amber prescription bottle with contact information for Dr. Conversation and TicTac mints and conversation tips inside. This “card” is a great conversation starter. 3) I created “My Other Card” for folks who have run out of cards to exchange. I say “No problem: Here is your other card” and hand them My Other Card with a line for their name, email address, and phone number. The card evokes surprise and laughter, and I get their contact information.

— Life stories: One of my favorite stories is about campaigning with my father when I was a second grader, going farm house to farm house to ask for votes, one at a time. He lost the general election for sheriff by 12 votes out of nearly 15,000 cast, but prevailed by 3 votes after a 2-week recount of each paper ballot.

Which of your life stories could flavor your conversations?

— Impressions: If you have a talent for mimicking people with voice and facial expressions, try using it during conversation. I am good with regional dialects and foreign accents, and I use them when appropriate. Sometimes I even insert a phrase in Spanish, French, or Italian, then explain it. Example from Italian: “Non si puo fare la brutta figura.” Roughly, “You can’t make an ugly appearance.” Meaning? You should always be well dressed and groomed.

— Stunning statistics: Did you know that in the years immediately after the end of World War II over 250,000 homes were built by ordinary people who bought “package houses” from Sears-Roebuck and Montgomery-Ward? And now you can do this again on the cheap with free plans available at www.wikihouse.org

Caveat: If you use statistics to make a point, make sure they’re accurate.

— Puzzles and tricks: You can use word puzzles or physical puzzles for flavor or to illustrate a point. Example: A few days ago I was encouraging a friend to think big in his business and to focus on possibilities instead of obstacles. I gave him a square of paper with a small round hole the size of a dime and asked him if he could put a penny through that hole without tearing the paper.

After a few minutes he gave up. “Not possible.” I then folded the paper and gently pushed the penny through the hole without tearing the paper. My point? Even though it looked impossible, it wasn’t. Then I quoted the late speaker Art Berg, who said “The impossible takes just a little longer.”

Other spices you can use? Jokes, unusual trivia, vocal variety, pauses for emphasis, photos, and more. Whatever works.

I’ve long observed that conversationalists who express themselves in ways others find interesting and entertaining are more attractive than people who are merely ordinary and predictable.

Spice up your conversations and you’ll become more attractive.

Used with permission of Dr. Loren Ekroth, publisher of “Better Conversations” newsletter. Complimentary subscriptions at www.conversationmatters.com.

Coaching Call to Action

I like the “If” question.  As a coach, I help my clients consider other ways of looking at a situation.  Asking “if” questions has them consider new ideas and possibilities.  How about you?  What will you do this week to spice up your conversations?  Please share your commitment below.