You've probably heard that every business transaction is a conversation. It could be like this.
"Welcome! I'm here to make sure you have a super time. Just grab me if I can help."
Later, "Yeah, I guess I could use some help finding my size." And, "Sure, I can find that. Medium?" "Yeah!"
And the best part, "Can I fold and bag those while you finish paying? I think you'll look good in them."
Alternatively, your conversation could be, "Spoons are on sale!"
"No thanks. Just looking."
"Did you hear me? Spoons. On sale!"
And finally, as they flee through the fire exit, "Spoons will never be so on sale again! Terms and conditions apply."
What I'm saying is yes, business transactions are like conversations. Sometimes terrible, one-sided conversations. And I'm employing metaphor, so the sense of that exchange could have been conveyed by the UX design of an ecommerce site and its choice of banner ads. The point is, conversations themselves are like games. They follow and benefit from the guidelines that make games playable and fun.
We'll get back to our eloquent spoon salesperson, but let's just discuss conversation, in the context of the game constraints we discussed before: Choice that makes meaningful changes to the game state, variety of choices that don't repeat themselves, predictability that lets you expect a certain range of outcomes for your actions, uncertainty that keeps you curious to see how things will turn out, consequence which just means what you choose to talk about takes you from one space in the discussion to another, and finally, satisfaction, which you get from having your witty remarks and informative disclosures recognized by the table.
Imagine yourself at lunch with three friends on the weekend, talking about things. Let's see how those constraints apply. Choice is available to each of you; when to speak, and what and how to say it in nearly infinite variety. There is a healthy amount of uncertainty. You wouldn't ask a friend if he has any pets if you've already seen one too many pictures of his dog. Unless this is your running joke, and you all get satisfaction from the familiar joke and response. Predictability plays in because you can expect certain types of responses. Your joke should result in laughter or groans. Somebody else probably will respond with another joke. They probably won't choose this moment to talk about their recent breakup or political philosophy, because the social environment provides consequence for breaking the flow of conversation.
So I do not think conversation is a game with points and victory conditions, but it is a play space, with meaningful constraints on your moves, that help everybody have a good conversation. And what makes a good conversation is what makes a good game: surprises, within the acceptable moves. Given that both of the following are valid topics, which would be the more surprising and fun part of a chat with friends?
"Hey, how are you?"
Or "Hey, how are you?"
"Fine, and we're expecting our first baby!"
Yeah, that's a surprise! And it's the kind of topic that will make the conversation interesting, memorable, and fun. Now you shouldn't have to mortgage your firstborn to make a conversation or a transaction interesting, but you should think of ways to keep it interesting, have a few surprises, and make it fun.
Remember that what makes a conversation satisfying is topics that are not too jarring. It's predictability again. That generally means listening to the other person, and making responses that strike the right balance between giving them something new to think about, without being so strange they feel like they blacked out and missed 10 minutes of the discussion. If you're listening well, you'll pick up on cues and say the right things. Not just shout about your weird spoon collection. Yeah, keep that in mind the next time you update your web storefront.
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