To be a great conversationalist, you don’t have to show how intelligent, witty, funny or naturally charismatic you are. Though these traits make it easier to keep conversations going, what truly matters is how others feel when they talk to you. Check out my video to find out why:

We’d like to thank the brilliant, creative folks at Video Intro Maker for creating this video.

One of the reasons why hits are so powerful is that they trigger the release of dopamine – the reward neurotransmitter. Neurologically, it is like you’re giving them a gift and they will thank you through their genuine, in-depth responses and positive impression of you.

Here are some questions you can ask to help people’s brain look for hits:

  • What was the highlight of your week?
  • What personal passion projects are you working on right now?
  • What’s your favorite thing to do on the weekends?
  • What’s your favorite part about your job?

The key is to ask questions that prompt people to think of positive things so that they associate interacting with you with being in a good mood. Once you’re involved in a conversation, ask questions about their responses. This helps you get to know them on a deeper level than you could from their initial, often surface-level, answers and makes them feel valued because you care about what they have to say.

Another benefit of asking people questions that prompt their brains to look for hits is that it takes the pressure off of you in conversations since the focus is on the other person. If you’re an introvert especially, this helps you enjoy conversations more because it boosts your biochemistry. When you engage in deep, reflective conversations with people, it triggers the release of a neurochemical called acetylcholine. Research has found that introverts feel happy when that hormone is released, which is why these types of focused conversations tend to be more interesting and comfortable than small talk.

Bring Brain Hits into Your Meetings

In a professional and/or leadership context, you can use brain hits to improve your organizational culture. At the start of every meeting and in as many other conversations as you have time for, begin by asking questions that elicit hits. This will start every meeting on a high note and trigger people to have positive brain chemistry. Do this even in the beginning of meetings about difficult topics because though asking about wins may seem irrelevant in certain contexts, it is an effective way to lower people’s stress levels so that they are more mentally prepared to have a productive conversation and not get defensive.

Your Hits Will Always Become Misses if You Do This

If you are going to use this strategy to improve your interactions, you have to be genuinely interested in the people you are talking to. Otherwise, if you ask brain hit questions but your eyes are wandering while they speak, you give non-specific responses like “that’s cool” or “good for you” or you otherwise appear distracted while they talking, they will recognize that you are being fake and it will damage their impression of you. To be charismatic and form strong connections, you have to believe that people are fascinating and their voices are worth hearing. With that mentality, you’ll get your own hits from talking to people because it becomes a fun, discovery process rather than something you’re doing because you need other people to achieve your goals.

Bonus: You are Contagious 

Check out my full TEDx Talk here: 

About Vanessa Van Edwards

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and behavioral investigator.

I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.

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