I happen to believe that there is an art to everything we do and why not?
Without flair and panache most things become drudgery. Why settle for drudgery when you can have art?
When it comes to the art of conversation we've all met people who seem
to have knack for it. They can talk to anybody about anything and they
seem to do it with complete ease. And while it's true that there are
those who are born with the gift of gab, luckily for the rest of us,
conversation skills can be developed and mastered.
In my article Good Communication Skills
- Key to Any
I talk about the importance of being a good communicator and I give
tips on how to convey ideas and information successfully. Many of the
same tips hold true for developing good conversational skills. Have a
look at the article for added tips which I won't be repeating here.
Conversation is a form of
communication; however, it is usually more spontaneous and less formal.
We enter conversations for purposes of pleasant engagement in order to
meet new people, to find out information and to enjoy social
interactions. As far as types of conversation, they vary anywhere from
intellectual conversations and information exchanges to friendly debate
and witty banter.
While there is more to having good conversation skills than being a comedian,
dramatic actor, or a great story teller, it is not necessary
to become more gregarious, animated, or outgoing. Instead, you can
develop the ability to listen attentively, ask fitting questions, and
pay attention to the answers - all qualities essential to the art of
conversation. With diligent practice and several good pointers, anyone
can improve their conversation skills.
Tips on How to Improve Your Conversation Skills
Show interest and be curious. People who are genuinely interested in others are usually
interesting themselves. Why? Because they are more open to learning
about and understanding new things.
Showing interest also encourages the other person to be relaxed and share information more freely.
Display attentiveness by keeping good eye contact and listening actively.
If you happen to be shy and need time to warm up before you share your
own views, you can ask open-ended questions or encourage the other
person to elaborate on their insights. This kick-starts the
conversation and before you know it you are engaged in a good
Ensure there is a balance of give and take.
A conversation can get boring quickly if one person is doing all the
talking while the other is trying to get a word in edgewise. When that
happens whoever is not talking begins to tune out and there is no
There can be many reasons for a lack of give and take. Sometimes nervousness can get in the way and
you ramble on without realizing it. Or, nervousness can make you freeze and you don't know what to
say next. If you find yourself freezing up, take a deep breath and do your best to focus; smile, and
then reflect on what you want to say. If the other person is the rambler and
you've tried several times to interject but haven't been able to, then excuse yourself politely and move on.
If later on you realize that you were the rambler (heaven forbid), then
at least you will have made the most important step towards improvement
which is - awareness.
Determine whether your tendency to dominate a conversation is due to nervousness or
Either way, review the conversation in your head. Look for spots where
you could have paused and allowed the other person to talk. For future
conversations a good rule of thumb is after you make a point, pause for
either agreement or an alternative point of view. Observe body language
for cues whether to stop or continue. For example, is the person
glossy-eyed and therefore bored? Are they moving towards you to speak
and you just keep on talking? Are they looking elsewhere (for an
escape) while you are carrying on? In a good conversation each person
needs to express themselves or it is no longer a conversation but a
Be interesting and have something to say.
While you don't have to be a comedian, entertainer, or brilliant
raconteur, you do need to be
otherwise what would you say? If you are not well informed, tend not to
read much, or have very few interests, you will have very little to
talk about except yourself. Unfortunately, no one wants to hear about
your latest troubles, conquests, or daily routine. Yet so many dull
conversationalists believe that's what people want to hear from them.
Who hasn't been stuck with someone at a social event who blathers on
about their family history, latest job interview, or the like?
avoid being that person, become knowledgeable about world events,
people in the news, or what's going on locally. Take time to keep up
with the latest music,
discoveries, or recent best sellers. No one can know everything, so if you can enlighten someone
during the course of a
conversation, you'll be a hit! By the same token, you can learn
something new as well.
Of course, not all conversations are knowledge sharing gatherings or
discussions of global import. Many, especially at social functions,
consist of light-hearted and cheerful banter. In such cases, be aware
of the tone and mood of the conversation and go with the flow. If you
are not particularly good at one-liners, or much of a jokester, you can
always listen, smile and enjoy the humor. Never act like you feel out
of place or ill at ease.
Be relaxed, be yourself.
If you are on edge, or trying to be someone you're not, it will show
and therefore doom a conversation to failure before it starts.
Admittedly, if you are not relaxed it's hard to appear as if you are.
Slow down and take a deep breath. If you don't do your best to relax,
you will end up saying something silly, unintelligible, or unrelated to
the conversation. Also smile warmly; it will make you appear pleasant
and therefore, more approachable. Worth noting: if you are trying to
hard to be something you're not, you will come across as a fake or a
To start a conversation, go up to someone and introduce yourself. It is
both polite and necessary to start things off smoothly. If the occasion
calls for it, you can offer a handshake and then smile and make eye
contact. Being friendly puts the other person at ease and opens the
door for them to introduce themselves. If, for whatever reason, your
attempt is not well-received and you notice the other person is cool or
standoffish, bow out gracefully and move on. Do not take it as a
rejection; merely consider that the person has their reasons for not
reciprocating. Perhaps they are not feeling well, have had a bad day,
or are not in the mood for conversation.
To improve, practice and then practice some more.
The art of conversation, like any skill, takes practice. Do not expect
to be adept after your first few attempts. It will take practice as
well as exposure to many different social situations. A good way to get
practice before you venture out to an event is with family members
and people you are comfortable with.
They can give you helpful and supportive feedback, which in turn, gives you something to work on.
You can never have too much practice!
Quick-Tips for The Art of Conversation
Do not dominate a conversation or make it all about you. A monologue is
Show interest and curiosity in others.
Strive for a balance of give and take.
Be an active listener by maintaining good eye contact and asking pertinent questions.
Train yourself to relax by using visualization, meditation, or other relaxation methods.
Being relaxed is vital for good conversation.
Do not interrupt and cut in with your own ideas before the other person is finished speaking.
Maintain an open mind; everyone has a right to express themselves even if you
don't agree with what they are saying.
Although this is cliché, try to avoid topics such as sex, religion and
politics. You would be surprised at how many people get trapped
by them and end up in verbal battle, not conversation.
Be prepared by staying on top of the latest news, developments and world events.
Be approachable by staying relaxed, smiling and maintaining a friendly attitude.
Possessing the art of conversation
improves personal, social and work relationships. It gives you the
opportunity to meet interesting new people and introduces you to
various new topics and subject matter. With practice and application
anyone can improve their conversation skills.