In the fourth and final installment of the Social Skills Masterclass we talk to best selling author, blogger, and conversation coach, Patrick King.
Thanks for talking with us, Patrick. Before we get into it, I’m curious to know, how does one go from being a corporate lawyer to a social skills and conversation coach – what does that journey look like?
Thanks for having me, Michael. What does that journey look like? Easier than you might think! I got lucky, but I was also just very intentional about doing things I was simply interested in. I started writing and coaching (dating and online dating at first) while I was a practicing lawyer, and eventually it got to the point where I was obviously much more interested in that alternative path, and there wasn’t any choice other than for me to jump out of law. People like to see it as brave, but it wasn’t brave to me. It was just my only choice because I also didn’t like law very much!
Your most recent book is called Fearless Social Confidence. Can you explain exactly what that title means, and why you felt the need to write the book?
Being great at conversation, charisma, everything similar to that – you need to have the requisite confidence first, otherwise you can be charismatic… but no one else will see it, right? That book is all about addressing the mental blocks, negative self-talk, narratives, and excuses that we create for ourselves, and breaking out of them with confidence techniques that make you simply remember who you are. There are elements of therapy, such as incremental exposure therapy, and elements from my own coaching, such as creating a confidence resume.
Being a conversation bad ass isn’t just about knowing how to start and keep a conversation flowing. Many times we find ourselves in conversations we don’t want to be in but stay in them because we don’t want to come across as being rude, or impolite. What tips do you have for exiting a conversation the right way, or better yet, turning that boring conversation into something memorable?
Exiting is all about the feeling of rejection. We know how we feel when we get rejected by others socially, so we don’t want to do that to others. We don’t want to make it “awkward.” Easy.
First, have an excuse and drop it right at the beginning of the conversation. Then you can refer to it when you want to go.
Second, if you forget the first step, just think about the following: urgency, asking for permission, apologizing, then setting something ambiguous for the future. “Oh, I’m sorry, I just remembered I have to make a call for a big work project, do you mind? Let’s catch up later in the evening!”
You have an interesting warm up technique that involves reading a passage from a children’s book out loud, exaggerating all the emotions, and being hyperbolic as possible. I’m curious to know where this idea comes from and how does it make us better at conversations?
The idea came from realizing that sometimes when I wanted to speak to others, I literally had to clear my throat for 4 seconds before being ready. It got me thinking – what if I stretched my limits and really went overboard like I did when I was warming up when I was a track athlete? It just made too much sense. So I eventually found that dialogue from a children’s book worked the best because of the hyperbolic outlandish involved – that’s really a great warm-up because it takes you to the extreme every time. It gets you warmed up and ready to jump into any conversation rather than dropping the ball in your first 1-3 conversations.
One conversation muscle you have to get ready to flex is your opinion muscle.
What is that? That’s the muscle that actually allows you to say what you want to say, and express your opinion or stance on something during conversation. This is important because a conversation can be boring in two ways: if you stay on boring topics, or if you say boring things.
If you’re not expressing your opinions and stances, you’re probably saying boring things. Therefore, you must workout and grow your opinion muscle! For some, it’s a matter of making it a habit, and for others, it’s a matter of growing social confidence. Whatever the case, opinions and details are typically what people want to hear – without an opinion, you’re relegated to just talking about the weather, which gets boring after the first sentence or so.
Saying what you think is one of the big keys to making conversation flow better.
How important is strong eye contact in conversations?
It’s important, but it’s more important to simply not be terrible at eye contact. Being able to sustain it for a decent amount of time is enough to be in the top percentile, and the inability to hold it will make others assume terrible, terrible things about you.
How can someone improve or get better at strong eye contact?
That’s one of my favourite things to coach – it just involves sunglasses and a sidewalk. Sit near the sidewalk and face oncoming foot traffic; put the sunglasses on. Then just stare into people’s eyes as they walk by you. You’re 100% safe, and it gets you used to that feeling of tension that eye contact gives you. That’s how you improve – when you can withstand that feeling and hold eye contact because you’ve had so much exposure to it.
What are some ways we can turn run-of-the-mill questions, like when the other person asks, ‘how was your weekend?’ or ‘what do you do?’ into engaging, exciting, free-flowing conversation?
The easiest way is threefold. Rather, there are 3 easy ways to do this that you’re probably not doing. First, you can prepare mini stories as answers to these questions, and the stories will be of your choosing and be designed to lead to something interesting. Second, you can share an opinion or stance on something, which is something many of us don’t realize we stray away from. Third, we can share in deeper details about our own lives, which is again something many of us don’t realize that we avoid.
You play in a 80s cover band, which is awesome. What’s your favourite 80s song to cover?
Anything by Foreigner or Journey.
How do you want to be remembered?
As an impactful teacher. I get occasional emails from people who have read my work that have greatly improved their lives, and among my clients, the phrase “I feel like you’ve changed my life” is not uncommon. That’s what I strive for through it all.
Who’s had the biggest influence on your life and career to date?
The cliché answer is my father, whose work ethic and impact I will never match, but always lights a fire under my but when I get complacent. I guess I’m somewhat of a positive result of tiger parenting, so to speak.
What book are you currently reading?
1491 by Charles Mann
What’s next for you in terms of writing and building your business?
I’ve got a traditional publishing deal slated to be in book stores in 2018! Other than that, more speaking and writing per usual.
Where can we learn more about you and what you do?
Head over to my website patrickkingconsulting.com – there’s also a handy little 7 step conversation cheat sheet for reference and quick tips. Otherwise, hop over to Amazon and check out any of my books!
Over To You
Patrick gave some awesome tips in this interview on how to become a conversation ninja. I really liked the conversation warm up technique and have started using this myself. I also like the advice on how to improve strong eye contact. What was your favourite technique or what piece of advice did you find most valuable?
Your Challenge…If You Choose To Accept It
Is to go out and apply the advice Patrick has given. Set room aside for 5-10 minutes a day to learn these skills. No excuses.
Don’t forget to grab your copy of Patrick’s new book, Fearless Social Confidence.