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.
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
Success, 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 conversation!
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
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 monologue.
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
interesting 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 away about their family history, latest job interview, or the like?
To 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
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 wannabe.
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
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 not conversation.
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
many people get trapped by them and end up in verbal battle, not
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.