How I’m Trying To Improve My Conversations

I am an ambivert. If you don’t know, an ambivert sits neatly in the center of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. I recently finished Captivate by Vanessa Von Edwards (3 times, to be precise) and learned this. This book is all about “hacking” social interactions. After going through it I decided to go on a bit of an adventure. A social adventure. And just in time for my friends’ wedding shower.

Someone out there decided to make me their Best Man. And with great power comes the responsibility of setting up wedding showers. Leading up to the big day I was getting a bit anxious. Not about the event being successful. I was anxious about the prospect of meeting people. The reason?, I’m bad at conversation.

So it happened that by dumb luck and star alignment I discovered Captivate just in time to put a few tricks up my sleeve in anticipation of the party. I decided to implement these social techniques as a bit of a social adventure. By no means was I perfect, but I walked out of there calm and with a few positive testimonials about my humor.

So let’s talk about the three “hacks” I utilized at the party:

1. Body Language Manipulation

art-body-close-up-220443

The first alteration I made was to adjust my body language. I made sure I wasn’t slouching. I made eye contact with everyone and I smiled. These were the first and easiest to do. What was more difficult was to take my hands out of my pockets.

Hands indicate intention. It’s the reason we shake hands as a greeting. Seeing people’s hands puts others at ease.With my hands out of my pockets I could make hand motions which are more engaging.

Adjusting the body was a good start. It was also not overly intimidating because the only discussion I had to have about this was with myself.

2.Work In The Five Whys.

ask-blackboard-356079

The founder of Toyota Motor Company developed a technique for digging deeper into the failures at the company. The idea is that you ask Five Why Questions that help the person you are talking to get into more detail and eventually you will get to the root of the problem. By focusing on the reasons instead of the facts, you can get in to deeper conversation.

After finding a topic which we shared mutual interest. I focused on what it was about the topic that the person I was talking to liked. I found out why one person likes her job. I had another conversation where we raved about how much we enjoy exercising because of the various ways that the body is interconnect. I even learned about the 5 stages of habit building, which was super interesting.

It was a small shift the yielded strong benefits. Looking to get people talking about why they like something brought forth a very strong and genuine response from people. And since enjoy seeing people excited. It made the day easier.

3.Weave the Thread (Theory).

abstract-art-close-up-276502
Thread Theory is the idea that you take a trigger word from the previous sentence and make it into the focus of the next. For instance I was talking with a friend and he was telling me about school. We were discussing theater and I wanted to bring it further. So I asked if he was in the theater program. He said know, but mentioned dance. From there I asked about his dancing.

A few minute later I learned that he will be going to school for dance/physical therapy, The Thread looked something like this:

Theater > Dance > College > Majors > Dance/Physical Therapy

I was able to learn five distinct pieces of information by just following where the conversation brought itself naturally. By honing in on the a keyword and bringing that up again the conversations kept progressing.


Like I said I wasn’t perfect. At one point I accidentally called the Bride’s younger brother a less politically correct version of a brat (I meant it lovingly) and the Maid of Honor did not understand the sarcasm. Luckily my friend (The Bride) thought it was funny. But these are just three of thirteen different “hacks” that Captivate offers. Moving forward in the next few weeks, this has become my newest adventure. I am looking to create more valuable conversations. If this interests you I would encourage you to look into Captivate.

So do you have any interesting conversation starters? Or do you have a social blunder to share? I would love to hear about how you thrive in your own social adventure in the comment section below and if you like what you are reading I encourage you to follow me. I will be posting every Monday and the next post will be on 6/18. So thank you for your time! Go find an adventure today!

More soon.

John Latona Jr., The Boy with the Bear.

How Big Adventures Can Influence The Day to Day

It goes without saying that I try to find adventure in the everyday. Making my day as special and unique as I can is important to me. But sometimes you want to get away. You have a place that is calling to you and you need to go on a Big Adventure.

For years I have been called to Zion National Park. In college I watched a documentary on Netflix about the park and it has been in my head ever since. Back in February I decided I needed to just do it. So I found a weekend in April with nothing on my calendar called a friend and told him, “I’m booking my flight to Zion on Monday. Are you in?” Two months later we were hiking up Angel’s Landing having the absolute time of our lives.

Big adventures stimulate my mind in many different ways. They add perspective, they immerse me in different cultures, they introduce me to new things and allow me to see something that it is impossible to see during my Everyday Adventures. What is more important to me is that while experiencing these benefits I find myself changed when I get home.

These are three of the lessons I have learned from traveling farther away from home:

1. Try New Things

action-adventure-blur-386009
 

I never travel and go to a restaurant I can find at home. This innately forces me to try or see something new. In 2012 I went to Ghana to visit my sister. First of all, going to an African country was new. The food, the clothing, the buildings. For the first time in my life, I was the minority. It was overwhelming at first, but I settled into everything and I was able to appreciate everything.

I remember the first time that I tried banku (a sour fermented corn dough) I was not impressed, but it was exciting. But it started the process of trying so many things that I just can’t experience here. Piling into a tro tro (large van for public transit) to get from city to city, hitchhiking down a jungle road, pulling water up from a well to use for me bathe and to wash my clothes (skills I have used back at home).

I stretched my perspective and found that people love to teach their way of life. Did I like everything new I tried, of course not (see banku above), but you never know what you will like until you try something you new.  So I try new things in my day to day adventures. Maybe I will fall in love with it.

2. Plan, But Not Everything.

arrow-blur-depth-of-field-134065

When I travel I like to leave in some none scheduled wiggle room. There is no possible way that I can no everything about the place and predict what I am going to want to do when I get there. Sometimes an opportunity shows up that I couldn’t have seen. You need to be able to jump on those.

When I was traveling in Arizona back in 2016 the plan was to backpack to the bottom and spend the week there. The trip had to be cancelled, but I was already in Phoenix. I had been spending the past few months hiking in preparation and I wanted the challenge. The plan had to change. So me and the group I was meeting up with, instead, did a more tourist oriented trip. We car camped outside of the Grand Canyon and did a few day hikes. Afterwards we traveled north to Lake Powell where we would spend time kayaking on the lake. Super beautiful experience.

At the end of the trip I had no complaints. The experience was fun, the people were great and I was prepared to say goodbye and head off. Then the opportunity came. There was an opening at Phantom Ranch for the next night. Phantom Ranch is a hostel style lodging situation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and it fills up very fast. I couldn’t say no. I stayed flexible and shifted my few remaining plans in such a way that I was able to do what I originally set out to do. Get to the bottom. It is my favorite experience to this day. So I plan and schedule, but I leave room for spontaneity, because sometimes you just need to jump on an opportunity when it knocks.

3. It’s All About The People

backlit-dawn-foggy-697243

Every trip I have ever gone on has been made better or worse by the people. In Ghana I traveled with my sister. In Arizona, I met up with a group of people who were great.  And in Utah I traveled with one of my best friends. Even when you travel alone, people are what make the experience amazing. In Arizona I met this woman who was just so immensely engaged in us. She was curious and interested in who we were as people. She would ask thought provoking questions about me in a way that made me feel safe to open up to her. Oh, she was also immensely fun. She was the linchpin of the group getting so close. I know that if I ever go out to Kansas I plan to reach out to her and catch up because she was just that kind of person.

In Utah, we met a couple who had seen me running down the Angel’s Landing Trail and started talking.  I asked them about what they love about the different parks and they gave us amazing insight into what to do as our trip progressed. We trusted them and took their advice and ended up with an amazing experience that we definitely did not plan to have.

And in Ghana the people were so accommodating and nice. They considered it an honor to ensure that my trip was special and that I was able to see and do everything that I wanted to (and a few I didn’t). Overall, I try to take the right people on my adventures and take every opportunity to meet new people along the way. We are all connected. I like to remind myself of that.


I am a big believer in the Big Adventure. To me this often takes the form of any experience designed to completely smash my comfort zone. Each time I involve myself in one, my perspective on the world takes a shift and my faith in people increases. I learn about myself and the type of person I can be with each trip and I try to use these lessons in my day to day to inform my choices. So I challenge you to think of your next big adventure. Just decide a place where you would like to go. And just keep thinking about it until you finally plan it.

So what types of lessons have you learned when you traveled? How can they be used to benefit us during our day to day adventures? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below and if you like what you are reading I encourage you to follow me. I will be posting every Monday. So thank you for your time! Go find an adventure today!

More soon.

John Latona Jr., The Boy with the Bear