How to bring more confidence to your conversations

Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shares his rules for becoming an assured conversationalist.

Andrew Horn: So we've all had that moment where you're at a bar you're maybe dancing a little bit moving around and you see someone looking at you out of the corner of your eye and then your movements become a little more constricted, you become a little more in your head, you're worried about what they might think about you. So that's that external motivation. In any moment you can ask yourself am I doing this because I want to or because I think people will like it? If we're basing it off of the reality that someone else will like it we'll never really know. We open ourselves up for that social anxiety, the fear of negative judgment, the unknown of external validation. So we can always ask ourselves what do I want to do right now? What is interesting to me? What will feel good to me? And act off of that to eliminate social anxiety to bring more confidence into our conversations. So that's how we find our authentic voice and use it.

And your authentic voice is a deep down understanding of who you are, what you care about and what you believe. And it's only when we have that foundational understanding that we're able to bring confidence into social situations. Because if we're not basing our actions off of this internal understanding we're constantly looking for external validation, for other people to tell us what is cool, what is acceptable, what is appropriate. And if you look at the actual definition of social anxiety it's literally the fear of negative judgment, so again, it's based in that external validation.

And I love Carl Sagan who says we can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers. And so to find our authentic voice we need to ask ourselves these courageous questions. Ask yourself what's the dream, if I could not fail what would I do with my time? Ask yourself what am I not doing that I would like to be? Ask yourself what is most challenging for me right now?

And we can trust questions in conversation just ask yourself the last time someone asked you a question, looked you in the eyes and listened to you, how did it feel? Universally good, it always will. So whenever we're asking questions we can trust that we're learning and growing and that we're leaving a good impression. And there's one simple question we can ask ourselves to fundamentally transform our conversations. So 60 seconds, whether it's going on a date, whether it's going into a big conference, whatever it may be ask yourself what am I most excited to learn about the people that I will meet? What am I most excited to learn about the people that I will meet?

So what you will do is you will establish something I call the curiosity compass. You'll establish a series of questions that are authentic to you that you genuinely want to ask these people. And basically what happens now is you're focusing more on being interested than on being interesting, which is one of the oldest techniques in the book to actually feel more confident in social situations. So when you've identified your curiosity compass it's much easier to exist with anyone and feel comfortable.

And so having these questions just lodged to memory are going to make you feel better when you're in these social situations. Outside of the question of what do I most want to learn about these people I also think it's important for people to think about what I call your go to questions. And so your go to questions are three to five questions that you generally always want to know to people. So this could be what are you most excited about? This could be what's the dream? What's your priority right now? What's the next big thing you have coming up? It could be what's something awesome you've learned recently? And what happens is you think of Yogi Berra the amazing New York Yankees catcher and he used to say, "You can't think and hit at the same time," because hitting is this incredibly fast just volatile act and so once the ball comes out of that hand and it's coming into the batter's box you're not thinking about it everything in your body has just been trained to react to it and hit that ball where you want it to go. And so I think that when you're in conversation there's so many things that we can worry about, many stories we can bring into it, but when we have those questions logged to memory we're so much more likely to bring those types of things into conversation to lead us towards more interesting conversations that we're generally going to care about.

And another powerful exercise that we can practice for asking better questions is something called the golden rule of questions. And we all know the golden rule in life, treat others the way that you would like to be treated. So the golden rule of questions, ask questions to others that you would like to be asked yourself. If you just take some time to identify here are the types of things that I would like to be asked about, here are the types of things that I want to talk about then now you've also identified some of your authentic passions personally in the form of questions that you can give to someone else. So this golden rule of questions is a great way to, again, further deepen your understanding of the questions that you want to be bringing into conversation and any sort of interpersonal situation.

  • To avoid basing action on external validation, you need to find your "authentic voice" and use it.
  • Finding your voice requires asking the right questions of yourself.
  • There are 3-5 questions that you would generally want to ask people you are talking to.

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