10 Ways to Become a Better Conversationalist
You always have conversations. Right?
But just what kind of conversations do you have? Of what quality are they?
You go through an experience and you want to share it with someone. You get lonely and you want to spend time with someone. The first people you think of are your friends. Maybe your spouse or children. People you have a connection with.
These people make you feel good and life becomes better when they are around.
You even wish you always had them around you at all times.
Some people are better than others. They really brighten you up. Talking with them easily makes you happy and you enjoy the time spent together.
But not so with others.
There are those you would rather stay away from when you are not in your best moods.
Any talk with them may as well make things worse for you. They are still around you anyway and you cannot wish them away.
But you can avoid talking with them.
And that is what you do.
But have you considered what others think of talking with you?
You talk to some people and you enjoy the time. But do all the people you talk with enjoy your company?
Just as you don’t like conversing with some people, is it possible that some people don’t like conversing with you? Could it be that they are just acting polite by not walking away from you?
If the answer is yes, then it could be a very saddening revelation. You would probably not want to believe it as true.
This is because it hurts your sense of pride. Everyone has a sense of pride. It is what makes us love ourselves. It gives us confidence. Confidence, not arrogance.
Conversations are a normal part of the human life. Human beings are social in nature and will always prefer living and operating around others like them. The human life is built around communities. Communities of people with common backgrounds or interests.
Don’t we talk about the Christian community, Muslim community, the legal fraternity, even an online community? Not to mention that the online community is virtual. But it still exists and we passionately identify ourselves with it.
No matter how advanced technology becomes, the community setup cannot end.
With the high number of digital communication channels, face-to-face interactions are reducing by the day. People are now more likely to text their messages rather than meet and talk. Chat messages are becoming the more common way of communication.
Is it just an issue of convenience?
Well, there is definitely convenience being achieved but is there something being lost?
Yes, there is.
Human relations are becoming less authentic. Be it personal relationships or businesses interacting with their customers, conversations are losing the human touch.
This is all in an effort to enhance productivity. We want to be able to do more in less time. Whereas this is a good thing to strive for, it would be best to seek out a balance. Balancing the traditional and modern modes of conversing.
ARE PEOPLE INTERESTED IN CONVERSING WITH YOU?
Being a good conversationalist can be an art that you need to learn.
But it could also be an art that you excelled in only that technology taught you otherwise.
How can you tell whether you have lost the art of making good conversations? Could it be that you didn’t have it in the first place? Maybe due to being born and brought up in the midst of technology?
Here are some things you can check to find out whether people want to be in a conversation with you.
Are they responding with only ‘Yes’ or ‘No?’
This is one sure way of knowing whether the people you’re talking with are interested in talking.
When they respond to your questions with these short words and add nothing else, take note. They are simply saying that they don’t want to push the conversation further. If they were interested in the conversation, they would give an answer that opens them up for more talking.
For example, you could say to someone “It’s pretty hot today. Are you feeling it?” If his only response is “Yes” or “Sure,” then check how you progress. On the other hand, if he says something like “Yeah, I’ve been drinking cold water since morning to cool myself down,” then you know the conversation can continue.
You can pick something from that response to push the conversation further.
When gauging people’s interest in a conversation using this method, don’t use only one question.
People could just be indicating a lack of interest in the current subject. Change the subject and see what their response is like. If you know some of their interest, engage them on those. If their response is cold, then you have a big clue. Politely excuse yourself and look for someone else to converse with.
Are they asking you questions?
When in a conversation with someone, you will mostly be speaking about yourself. The other person will then be listening and there is a way of knowing if he is interested.
Asking questions helps you know more about a topic. When you encounter an interesting subject and you want to know more about it, you ask questions. Questions indicate that you are willing to spend more time learning.
When you are talking with someone and he finds you to be interesting, he will naturally want to know more about you. If not you, then the subject you are talking about, which will lead him back to you. If he is not asking you questions, he is indicating a lack of interest.
Continuing to talk with such a person is not going to change things. Instead, you will start becoming a real bother to them. The wisest thing to do is just leave them.
Are they telling you about themselves?
Conversations are two-way. There is no way one person will talk while others are silently listening throughout. There has to be responses coming from those listening. Everyone has something to talk about. It may not be much but there is definitely something to talk about.
If you are telling someone about yourself but he is not doing the same, consider killing the conversation. If someone is not talking to you about himself, he doesn’t want you to know him.
He is therefore willing to maintain silence so that everyone keeps to himself. Persisting in such a conversation will wear you out and make you a nuisance to the other person.
This does not necessarily mean that you are the problem. The other person might be having personal reasons why he doesn’t want to engage in a conversation.
Are they laughing at your jokes and stories?
Jokes offer a great way of easing the tension between people or just getting someone to be more engaged.
This is why public speakers always use them. You don’t have to be a talented comedian to tell funny jokes and stories.
When someone finds you interesting, he opens himself up to be wowed by you.
The smallest of funny stories regarding your childhood will be received with much liking.
The jokes and stories you tell are simply narrations of your past experiences. Whether you are a good story teller or not, past experiences are usually funny since most of them paint you in cumbersome situations.
These are the kind of things you recall when talking with your childhood friends when going through your pasts.
If the person you’re talking with isn’t finding your stories and jokes worth laughing at, then he is not interested in the conversation. Maybe he has a different background, different interests or lacks a sense of humor.
Either way, it will be a tall order for you to make the conversation last.
Do people get in touch after your first conversation?
Conversations will end and you will part ways. The real test of the conversation’s success is the follow-up meeting. The person you met and talked with may call you after two weeks and request a meeting. This is a great sign that the conversation was interesting to him.
If on the other hand, you are forgotten as soon as you part ways, then the conversation was not interesting. It is just like what happens to salesmen all over the world.
They pitch to potential customers and at times, can only leave hoping to receive calls from them. If the customer was interested, there would be a call. If not, then no call would be coming.
If you have experienced any of the above, then you have come to the right place.
This article will teach you how to become better in conversations.
10 WAYS TO BECOME A BETTER CONVERSATIONALIST
Having a good conversation is critical for everyone.
You will feel the need for it especially when you are in the midst of strangers. You will be attending conferences, birthday parties, networking events, seminars etc.
If things work well for you, you will find two or three people you already know.
But those people also know others and they want to catch up with them. You are not going to spend all the time with them.
So what do you do? You have to make new friends.
Below you will get to know 10 simple ways which will help you become better in conversations. Start practicing these today and you will soon realize that starting and sustaining conversations is easy.
Tip: You don’t have to be the one starting all conversations. If you however are in a networking meeting, rev up your confidence and approach someone for a conversation. If it’s not a networking meeting but there are people around you, go ahead and start the conversation.
Below are the 10 ways to become a better conversationalist.
This is the most basic aspect of honesty. Still, some people prefer to stay away from it. Watch the below video to learn the importance of knowing and being yourself.
With the widely-accepted philosophy of ‘fake it till you make it,’ many people lie about many things. Including their identity and personalities. This is the worst thing you can do when engaging in a conversation. You may gain someone’s trust quickly. You however start working to maintain the lie you built. Eventually, you will stand to lose the trust and friendship as you earn a tarnished name.
Everyone is different in a unique way and you need to embrace that. What makes a conversation interesting is the difference in thoughts, experiences, life visions etc.
If you constantly seek to be like someone else in order to be interesting in a conversation, you will certainly not go very far. There will soon be a disconnect showing. You also stand the danger of forgetting the show you put up last time so as to support it further.
Normal conversations are supposed to be easy-flowing and natural. This can only happen when you are being yourself. What are your likes? Which college did you attend? Which sport do you like?
When you are yourself, it is easy to keep a conversation going without struggling. You are simply operating in the area of your expertise. Aren’t you an expert in yourself? Your words will also be consistent regardless of the situations you are explaining.
Be genuinely interested
Imagine what it could be like for someone to engage you in a conversation about your favorite subject.
Be it holiday destinations, cars, fashion, movies etc. You could easily talk for hours. Why? Because the person has shown interest in what you love. Whatever it is that you love, it forms a part of you. When someone wants to know a part of you, he essentially wants to know you. This makes you feel important to that person.
When you show interest in someone, they tend to tell you more about themselves. This is important because all humans are always looking for someone to talk to. Even those who are introverted by nature. These mostly keep to themselves because they feel there is something inside them that’s not understandable by many. When they find someone who understands them however, they share deeply-personal things about themselves.
Eventually, you will stand out in their lives as one who is likable because they can talk with you about themselves.
Give and take
Conversations are talks between two or more people. If you’re the only one talking, then you’re giving a lecture. If giving a lecture during a conversation, the other person is bound to lose interest and switch off.
Giving and taking in a conversation is all about not talking too much. You should let the other person also speak.
You may have a very interesting subject to discuss. Unfortunately for you, that does not guarantee that you will make an interesting conversation.
The other person may also have something to say about it. If you dominate the conversation, even if you are an expert, you will cease being exciting.
Ensure you let the other person talk too. Listen to their opinion, thoughts or knowledge then proceed on the common ground.
Ask open-ended questions
Always ask questions. Questions indicate that you want to know more. They show that you are interested in the life of the other person. This helps the conversation flow as someone opens up to you.
All the same, you also need to be careful with questions. Do not ask probing questions. True, questions are meant to probe. It however matters how you ask them.
Avoid asking questions like “Were you angry about that?” or “Did that make you uncomfortable?” Such questions are likely to attract monosyllabic responses. The person you are talking with may find this a quick way of disengaging from the conversation.
Instead, ask open-ended questions like “How did you feel?” or “What was the experience like?” Such questions cannot be answered by a simple ‘Yes’ or ’No’ response. These will force the answer to be an explanation.
This is exactly what you want so that the conversation flows. As they explain their feeling, let your interest show. Take their facial expressions and the changes in the tone of their voice as cues. These will provide for a natural way of progressing with the conversation.
From the cues you have, ask follow-up questions or make follow-up comments. When responding to their explanations, both follow-up questions and comments can work.
You however need to be more careful with the comments. Just like the questions, ensure they leave room for responses.
For example, an answer to your question may be, “It felt so lonely being in that room all by myself. Everyone had left and I had to wait for two hours.” A good follow-up comment would be “Two hours? That must have felt like eternity.”
This comment indirectly asks whether they felt like it was eternity. Note that the response only expressed the feeling of loneliness in an empty room. You are now building on the duration of loneliness.
Alternatively, you can ask “Two hours? Why didn’t you go out even for a short walk?” At this, you can expect a response as to why there was a willingness to sit down in a room for two hours.
As you ask questions, keep the tone of your voice in check and use your facial expressions accordingly.
Focus on the conversation
Whenever you are conversing with someone, you have to focus on the conversation. Whether it is your friend or someone you just met, this is very important.
Although your friends might accommodate a bit of lack of focus from you, someone you’ve just met won’t. Someone you are meeting for the first time will interpret that as showing a lack of interest. It is also disrespectful. This will not earn you the marks you are looking for.
Focusing on the conversation has to do with being attentive, responding accordingly and keeping distractions away. One of the biggest distractions is your mobile phone. In this digital age where you can conduct business from anywhere, you can receive email alerts at any time.
More than that, you may remember that you needed to send a sales quotation to one of your clients.
As much as this can be understandable, you cannot afford to make this a habit. The easiest way to avoid this is ensuring your phone’s alerts have no sound or vibration. Setting your phone to ‘silent mode’ shows the importance you place on your conversation.
You will then be able to concentrate on what the other person is talking about.
Do not argue
Conversations are all about sharing thoughts and opinions in a friendly environment. When someone tells you their thoughts about something, don’t rush to prove them wrong. Even if you are an expert and know better.
In fact, such ‘correction’ will not be appreciated. The other person has not contracted you as his adviser. You are just supposed to know his opinion and share yours.
While sharing your opinions, do not be authoritative or forceful. That is not friendly yet you intend to form friendship. You should be accommodative of their ideas and opinions. If the person is very wrong and you feel the need to correct them, then do so politely and wisely.
You can start by asking them a question so you can understand the reason they hold the opinions they have. With that understanding, you will be able to know how best to make sense to them.
Related to arguing is being judgmental. This is fatal to any conversation. Indeed it can even kill already-established friendships. When you become judgmental towards others, you are taking a higher position while lowering them. You are essentially telling them how wrong they are and they need correction.
Judging others also tells them that whatever they say to you, you are going to be examining it for mistakes.
Since you are likely to find mistakes, people will be apprehensive to talk with you. Others will just not know what to say that is not contrary to your opinion.
For this reason, they might prefer staying away from you.
We all like to be complimented, especially when we do something praiseworthy. This appreciation will make the person you are complimenting open up to you.
It breaks some walls as the person sees you as keen enough to notice something good about them. Compliments are powerful tools that make people feel good about themselves.
In a conversation setting, giving a compliment makes the person you’re talking with happy. They will then tell you more about themselves because happy people tend to talk more.
Recognize their voices and ask them whether they sing in the choir. Appreciate the jokes they tell and ask whether they are comedians. Such compliments go a long way in raising someone’s hopes and confidence.
Since you make them feel appreciated, they will want to spend more time with you. They will also want to be more friendly towards you.
Always tell stories in the course of your conversations. As much as you may be trying to have a conversation with a stranger, just think of him as a friend. This way, it is easier to talk freely. Don’t you find it easy telling your friends stories about your life?
Do not strive to tell stories which will be interesting. Story telling is easy and can flow very naturally. Keep the stories relevant to the subject of discussion.
Are you talking about animals?
Then tell a story about what happened when you slept with your cat in your bed. Have you had a hunting dog before? You can share some stories about the adventures. Did you maybe live in an area infested by snakes and you got attacked severally? Share some of the experiences.
Throughout your story telling, gauge the interest levels in the person you are talking with. This will help you know whether to continue or change the subject. At the same time, remember that it’s a conversation. You should allow the person you’re talking with to interject and ask questions or make comments.
If the person offers a story of his own, let yours die away and listen to his. Show genuine interest and be open to humor. Shared laughter goes a long way in building great friendships.
Listen, listen, listen
Have you ever tried talking to someone who is ignoring you? You definitely didn’t like it. You probably regretted getting into the conversation in the first place.
When having a conversation with someone, the best thing you can do for both of you is listen to him. This not only shows that you are interested, it also creates room for a connection. Listening to someone talk enables you understand him.
When he feels understood, he is ready to reciprocate. As you have understood him, he will also want to understand you. This is how friendships are made. Not necessarily because two people share all the same values.
The below video teaches some basic yet important tips on how to become a better listener. Watch it then read on to learn how listening impacts your conversations.
It is important to note that listening is not for the purposes of replying correctly.
You are listening to understand the other person. A common mistake many people make when trying to have a conversation is seeking to reply.
This is as a result of focusing on the need for the conversation to flow. Do not burden yourself with the responsibility of keeping the conversation flowing.
Conversations should not be mechanical. They don’t have to be predictable in their flows. Just allow yourself to go with the flow of things.
Listening ranks very highly as one of the skills vital for communication. Learn how to listen and you will have better connections with the people you converse with.
Listening is tied to the innate need to be heard and understood. When you listen to someone, you give him an opportunity to express himself and be understood. This touches them at the core.
“Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.” – Roy T. Bennett
When you listen to people and understand their point of view, you are more likely to be sensitive to their opinions. This is what makes them want to talk with you more.
Remember that you cannot say that you’re a good conversationalist unless people have said it about you.
Since it is people who will say it, then let them be wowed by your ability to understand them then they will qualify you as such.
Use non-verbal communication skills
Non-verbal communication is that which is not through spoken words. Communication does not happen only when you speak. In fact, non-verbal communication has a greater impact than verbal.
Primarily, this is communication through other parts of your body other than your mouth. This is why it is referred to as body language. This means that your body speaks. More correctly, your body helps you speak.
Isn’t it said that actions speak louder than words? Non-verbal communication in most cases will reveal the truth that is hidden on the inside.
For example, on a chilly morning you might say that you are doing well. Unexpectedly, your body shivers slightly and this is seen by the person you’re talking with. Would they believe your words or what your body communicated?
When having conversations, make use of your hands, face, shoulders or any other body part as necessary. Non-verbal communication helps clarify what you are saying. An added benefit is that because people are visual, they may remember you from the actions you showed more than the words you spoke.
You may for instance give a story about your pet and make sounds similar to those it makes. The person you’re talking with may remember these sounds more than anything else.
This may be what pulls his attention to you for further engagement. Therefore, the sound you made made you memorable and that is a good thing. It interested the person you were talking with, giving you a better chance to talk with him again in the future.
Body language also helps break the monotony of speaking. When you use words only, you are likely to become boring more quickly than when including body language. You cannot communicate effectively without the use of non-verbal communication.
Conversations are an everyday thing. They fill your life every day. At the grocery store, workplace, gas station and everywhere else you go. As long as you meet someone or some people, you will very likely have a conversation.
Becoming a better conversationalist is not a difficult thing. As with all other things to be learned, the first step is to have the right mindset. Stop thinking that conversations are difficult and your mind will have an easier time learning. To make it easy to start a conversation, just start talking about something that is in the environment which both of you are in.
As you practice the above tips, do not be too hard on yourself. Don’t expect perfection in a single day. There is no expertise that can be developed instantly. Take your time and look at these tips as lessons. You can learn them as topics in a course.
If you follow through and improve your conversational skills, you will stand a better chance of influencing others through conversations.
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