How to Avoid Falling Asleep Behind the Conversational Wheel

Think about the last time you feel asleep behind the wheel. Dangerous, isn't it? Even if it's just for a split second, nodding off while driving puts you and the other drivers at risk.

But even when you're not driving, it's still possible to fall asleep behind the wheel. The conversational wheel, that is?

To avoid falling asleep behind the conversational wheel, you must avoid four behaviors. The following guide will show you how to get off at the right exit, concentrate on the road, merge into the correct lane and avoid road rage with other drivers. As a result, you will become a better driver (more approachable) so you can safely navigate the way to your final destination (connect and communicate with anybody).

Don't Miss Your Exit
How many times have you zoomed past your exit because you were uncertain where to get off? If you drive like me, at least three times a week. Thanks for nothing, Map Quest.

The same goes for conversation. When you are uncertain, you will miss your exit, or the opportunity to make a valuable connection with someone. This uncertainty breeds from the fear of rejection - the number one reason people don't start conversations. However, practice will make your fear fade away.

Therefore, take an active instead of a passive role in your conversations and prepare your introduction ahead of time. Think about what you will say when you meet new people. Read the newspaper for discussion points. Another effective technique is to have three open-ended questions ready in advance that will encourage self-disclosure and engagement. These ice breakers are your conversational "directions." Use them, and you won't find yourself driving where the streets have no names.

Keep Your Eyes on the Road
One of these days, my CD player is going to get me into an accident. I'm always distracted by that darn thing!

When interacting with people, what distracts you? Other stuff on your mind? Other people to talk to? Too self-conscious? Think about the last time you were introduced to someone and forgot everything about him. Especially his name. Ouch! The reason you forgot so quickly is because you were distracted. You didn't take a genuine interest in the other person because you were too busy thinking about #2, which is you. That's right, you're #2?they are #1.

Focus on the moment of introduction and repeat back key information you just heard. "That's interesting Elena, I didn't know Monsanto was expanding." This will widen the areas of your memory circuit and make it easier to connect and communicate with people around you. Remember, it's more valuable to concentrate on the road than the soundtrack to the road.

Don't Swerve Into the Wrong Lane
Isn't it frustrating when someone veers into your lane without a signal? It's almost as if they've invaded your personal space!

Conversation is the same way: it's all about respecting personal space. People have different "lane" sizes, but most social contexts adhere to the same spatial principles: 18 inches for intimate distance; 3 feet for personal distance; and 4-12 feet for social distance.

So, if you'd like to approach other people who are engaged in conversation, examine their "lane" before you think it's safe to merge. And when the time is right to join in the conversation, always remember to use your turn signals, i.e., nonverbal listening cues like nodding and eye contact; ask open ended questions based on iceberg statements or politely add an opinion or observation to show your desire to be included. Try this, and they will be happy to let you into their lane!

Don't Promote Road Rage
Did you know that the term "road rage" is in the dictionary? It's defined as anger or violence between drivers, often caused by difficult driving conditions. However, people blame traffic for driving conditions ? not their own inaccessible behaviors ? for this level of discomfort and uncertainty.

Imagine some guy in the lane next to you who won't give you space to turn. The music is blasting. He's way over the speed limit. And he doesn't care one bit about where you had to be five minutes ago! This is an example of a typical road rage incident.

Now think about the last meeting, event or party you attended. While driving down the road of social interaction, did you elicit road rage from other drivers? Were you unapproachable? Did you avoid eye contact? Did you forget names? Perhaps it wasn't the traffic after all.

Drive Safe
The average American spends 72 minutes in his car every day. And although getting from Point A to Point B is necessary to maintain your daily routine, never forget that the most important trip of your day is on the road of social interaction.

Therefore, in order to drive safely, adhere to the following rules: 1) Don't miss your exit: be aware of approaching opportunities to make valuable connections; 2) Keep your eyes on the road: focus on the moment of introduction to maintain rapport with people you've just met; 3) Don't swerve into the wrong lane: offer open, nonverbal signals to those with whom you want to communicate; and 4) Don't promote road rage: make yourself approachable so other people are comfortable in your presence.

Keep these ideas in mind and you will be certain to avoid falling asleep behind the conversational wheel.

Drive safely!

© 2005 All Rights Reserved.

Scott Ginsberg is a professional speaker, "The World's Foremost Expert on Nametags" and the author of HELLO my name is Scott and The Power of Approachability. He helps people MAXIMIZE their approachability and become UNFORGETTABLE communicators - one conversation at a time. For more information contact Front Porch Productions at

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