Our relationships are one of the most important aspects of living a good life. Conversing with a close friend can be one of our most intimate experiences. Yet we often don’t value these conversations like we should: we don’t pay enough attention to the important people around us.
Just like we use minimalism to get rid of excess stuff in favor of essential things, we can use it to rid ourselves of superfluous conversations in favor of essential ones. Consider these seven actions:
1. Make your words count. There is no need to count your words, just make sure they count: be sure your words add value to your conversations. It is important to be aware of what you are saying, and, more important, why you are saying it.
2. Expand your vocabulary. An extensive vocabulary allows us to be more precise, and precision allows us to better convey what we mean in a short span.
3. Be succinct. “Brevity is the soul of wit,” to quote The Bard.
4. Avoid unnecessary conversations. Our words become sloppy when we are forced to partake in a multitude of unnecessary conversations each day. Many of these conversations can be avoided or radically attenuated. Can you think of more than one conversation you could have avoided or shortened yesterday? What could you have done to avoid that conversation?
5. Converse more with loved ones. The people who really matter in your life—your friends, family, and loved ones—deserve quality conversation from you. By ridding yourself of unnecessary conversations, you can allocate more time to converse with your loved ones and establish deeper connections.
6. Listen more than you talk. Listening—honest, attentive listening—is not easy, and it doesn’t come naturally to most; thus, we must make an effort to listen while engaged in conversation.
7. Ask and listen. An easy way to be an engaged listener is to ask and listen. This allows you to actively participate in the listening process by asking interesting questions and allowing the other person to respond uninterrupted.
Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.