Speak the other person's language
Imprisoned in Yemen, Osama bin Laden's former chief bodyguard Abu Jandal refused to talk. His answer to any question was to criticize Western culture. Eventually that changed, and he provided his interrogators with extensive information regarding Al Qaeda operations, including the names of several 9/11 hijackers. In his book Pre-suasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini explains that the change of heart was not brought about by waterboarding, but by tea and cookies. Having observed that Jandal refused the cookies he was being offered, his captors learned he was diabetic. When they took the time to offer sugar-free cookies, they triggered reciprocation, one of the six weapons of influence.
I was not imprisoned in Yemen. In fact, I was having a lovely dinner in Rome with a large group of colleagues. One, a finance professor, mentioned that he was teaching a special course on the portrayal of finance in fiction. He mentioned a couple of books he was including in the curriculum, but mentioned that he was having a hard time finding others. As a former English major, I was more than happy to prattle on for the rest of the dinner offering a wide variety of selections. He had happened to find one of my key areas of interest, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss it.
Another time I was chatting with a petite, reserved co-worker. When I asked how her weekend was, she lit up and asked "did you see the fight? Pacquiao was incredible!" Surprised to learn of her interest in boxing, I admitted I had not watched, but asked her what she liked best about the sport. She, too, was happy to carry the brunt of the conversation when it turned to her area of interest.
What these scenarios all have in common is that, as Dale Carnegie said, the surest way to ignite interest in others is to speak in terms of their interests. By becoming genuinely interested in other people, we can arouse in them an eager want. Sometimes all it takes are a few questions to figure out where a person's passions lie. Other times, it takes research. To make a real impression, once you have determined what that interest is you can do homework ahead of a meeting. Carnegie says that this practice allowed Theodore Roosevelt to astonish people with the range of his knowledge.
I, for one, know I can have an engaged conversation with a colleague simply by being aware of the latest boxing matches.