How to Have a Great Conversation
Although second nature to most, there are some highly recommended guidelines to achieving an enviable level of conversational skills.
1- Do your homework. If you anticipate conversing with an individual (think date, business meeting, networking event etc), do your homework. Depending on the forum, it may or may not be appropriate to disclose that you know something about them prior to engaging in the conversation, but having an understanding of their interests, background and orientation, can give you a plethora of subject matter to address.
2- Exude confidence. Whether you are naturally confident or not is irrelevant. Acting confidently is just that- acting! Confident people are much more likeable and easy to get on with. Smile, be forward and open with your body language, and take the initiative.
3- We have two ears and one mouth so use them in that proportion. Listening is the key skill essential in the art of conversation. Nod, agree and smile. Listen to what they’re saying and reiterate to them, in your own words, important aspects of any point that they are making. This shows that you’re being attentive. Probe further into their response by asking questions.
4- Do not disclose your life story! Overly talking about yourself can be off putting to the person whom you are engaging with. Keep balance in the conversation and do not try and ‘better’ their stories.
5- Identify what they’re passionate about. Identifying what a person feels passionate about and encouraging them to discuss it will help you engage this person on a deeper, more emotional level. Chat shouldn’t be just about ‘business’.
6- Attain balance in debate. Should you disagree with a point that they have made yet it be insignificant, let it slide so to not appear argumentative, but at the same time, do not be too agreeable as this can be boring. If you wish to debate a point, first clarify the point that they have made by reiterating it back to them, and then respond with your argument (using “and” rather than “but” is less antagonistic). Accept that some people cannot argue rationally! Should they not be able to provide a rational response, silently accept victory in your point, nod politely, and drop the issue. Avoid conversation matter that may encourage an argument i.e. politics or religion.
7- Do not pull rank. Do not belittle the person you are conversing with and certainly don’t ‘pull rank’ i.e. “I spent 2 months in the Bahamas therefore I obviously know much more than you about sports fishing”.
8- Should conversation start to taper off, do not panic and force a change of topic, instead allow the conversation to develop naturally.
9- Should the other person be showing queues that it’s time to exit the conversation (such as looking elsewhere, checking the time or becoming fidgety), bring the conversation to a close and exit it before they do. Playing ‘hard to get’ is a ploy that also works outside of courtship.
If telling a story, leave gaps between sentences in order to allow the other person to interject or query a point. This ensures that you’re actually having a conversation rather than just lecturing!
Don’t ask too personal questions unless you know the person very well.