Conversations—we have them every day! Talking with people is essential to our survival as human beings. We are social creatures, after all! Conversations are important in every setting—to build friendships, to secure a job, to get married, etc.
However, not everyone knows how to have an effective conversation. Some people interrupt a lot or get distracted during conversations. Others lie to make themselves likeable, and many people do not know how to navigate a conversation they are not interested in.
If you’re like this, don’t worry. Below are ten effective tips you can apply to become a better conversationalist.
There’s nothing as peace-giving as being honest. Yet, many people aren’t honest. People lie about many things just because they think ‘faking it till you make it’ is the best way to be liked by other people. They fake their societal status, their personalities, and even their identities. Faking who you are in a conversation is the worst thing you can do because you risk losing the trust and friendship.
What makes a conversation interesting and worth having are the differences in experiences, thoughts, opinions, and ideologies. Everyone is different, including you, and that’s okay. You will not go far if you constantly try to be like someone else just so that people will think you are interesting. If you do that, people will be able to figure out the disconnection in the long run and they will become suspicious of anything you say.
Do you know why being dishonest is a very dangerous thing?
Well, it’s because one lie leads to a never-ending chain of many lies. Once you tell a lie, you have to tell another lie to cover up the previous lie. Soon, the lies you tell will overflow and you will begin to forget some lies you have told in the past. The second you do, people will detect the holes in the conversation and begin to view you as a dishonest person.
To become a better conversationalist, you should try to make your conversations flow easily and naturally. The only way this can happen is when you are being yourself and are honest about the things that color your life. Be honest about things like your:
- likes and dislikes
- hobbies and interests
- love life
Being honest can make you become a better conversationalist. When you are yourself, it is much easier to keep a conversation going without trying too hard. If you find it hard to make friends, you can try reading Nicholas Boothman’s book, How to Make People Like You In 90 Seconds or Less.
Be genuinely interested in the conversation
Imagine this scenario.
You meet someone for the first time and engage in small talk with the person. Out of the blue, the person asks, ‘What is your favorite thing in the world to do?’ You get really excited and you begin to talk for a long time about your hobby.
Has this ever happened to you?
Well, why do you think you could talk for a long time about your favorite thing to do? I bet it’s because the other person showed an interest in you. When someone wants to know a part of you, they want to know you.
When you show interest in someone, they are likely to tell you more about themselves. Humans are social beings, and we constantly look for someone to talk to—even introverts! People who keep things to themselves often feel like there’s something about them that many people might not understand. However, when they do find someone that is interested in and understands them, they become more comfortable sharing deeply personal things about themselves.
If you’re someone who shows interest in people, you are bound to become more likeable by others because they feel that they can talk to you about themselves.
If you’re not sure how to navigate small talk, Debra Fine’s book, The Fine Art of Small Talk, will teach you how to.
Don’t argue or judge
The major purpose of a conversation is to share thoughts, ideas and opinions in a friendly environment. When someone states their opinions, don’t hurry to tell them that they’re wrong even if you are an expert in the matter. The person will not even accept or appreciate your correction because it was unsolicited. The right thing to do is to listen to their opinion and then share yours.
While sharing your own opinions, don’t be forceful. Don’t try to shove your thoughts and ideas down anyone’s throat. Be respectful and kind while sharing your opinions. Accommodate other people’s ideas. If the other person is wrong and you feel the need to set them straight, do it politely. Don’t ridicule or insult them for having a contrary opinion.
You can start correcting them by asking them questions that will help you understand why they hold such opinions. When you understand why, you’ll be able to figure out how best to make them see why they are wrong. To become a better conversationalist, it is important that you repress the urge to argue.
Just as harmful as arguing is, judging has the same negative effect. Being judgmental can kill relationships very quickly. When you judge others, you are indirectly telling them that you are, in some way, better than them. You are indirectly telling them that they’re wrong and they need correction. You’re telling them that no matter what they say to you, there will be mistakes.
When you’re judgmental, people would not want to have conversations with you. They won’t know what to say that will align with your opinions. Because of this, they might stay away from you altogether.
Ask open-ended questions
Asking questions show that you want to know more about a person. It shows that you’re interested in the conversation and you want to keep it going. However, you need to be careful with how you ask questions. Don’t probe too deeply.
For example, don’t ask questions like, ‘Did that make you uncomfortable?’ or ‘Did that make you angry?’ These questions are likely to be answered with one word: YES or NO. These answers disengage the responder from the conversation.
Instead of asking closed questions, ask opened ended questions like:
- How did you feel about that?
- What did you learn from that experience?
- What happened to you?
This sort of questions makes the responder go into detail about their experience, rather than answering with a simple YES or NO. This is exactly what you need to keep the conversation flowing. As they are explaining their feelings, show your interest. Use their facial expression and tone changes as cues to know how to progress with the conversation.
When responding to their explanations, you can either ask follow-up questions or make follow-up comments. But just like your questioning, you need to be careful with the comments you make. Make sure that whatever you say prompts responses from the speaker.
Has anyone ever said something nice to you while you were out for a walk or running an errand? If so, how did you feel about it? Great, right?
Compliments are powerful words that make people feel good about themselves. It’s amazing how a few words can build someone’s confidence tremendously. Everyone likes to be complimented, especially when they do something extraordinary or perform a feat.
When you compliment someone, you draw them closer to you. The person will see you as someone who notices something good in them. It makes them happy, and happy people tend to speak more. Because you complimented them, they’ll feel more comfortable opening up to you.
Instead of paying generic compliments like, ‘You look good today, Janet!’, try to find specific things to compliment people about. If they just had a haircut that you like, say something nice about it. When they tell splendid joke, ask whether they’re comedians. If you hear them sing a note well, ask them if they’re in a choir or if they want to be a musician. Compliments like these help raise people’s confidence and hopes, and can definitely make you into a better conversationalist.
Have you ever talked to someone and realized in the middle of a sentence that the person was ignoring you? What did you feel about that? Sadness? Anger, perhaps? Or is it regret for having that conversation in the first place?
When you’re engaged in a conversation, the best—and polite—thing you can do is to listen to the person that is talking. It shows that you’re interested in the conversation and are willing to understand and make a connection.
When a speaker feels understood and seen, they will feel the urge to try to understand you too and see things from your perspective. This is how you build friendships. It’s not normal to want to be friends with someone ONLY when they share all the same values as you.
Contrary to what many people think, it is not right to listen just so you can reply correctly. You should listen to the speaker so that you can understand them. You shouldn’t always seek to reply or contradict. Instead, focus on the need for the conversation to flow.
Listening is a very important skill for effective communication. When you listen to someone and understand their perspective, you are more likely to be empathetic and sensitive to their opinions. This makes you become a better conversationalist because people will want to talk with you more.
If you are not sure how to listen well in a conversation, this article contains tips that will help you become a better listener.
Use positive body language
Body language, or non-verbal communication, is a system where communication happens without the use of spoken words. This type of communication system involves parts of your body except your mouth. In this case, your body helps you speak or communicate information to other people.
Some people think that communication only happens when you open your mouth and say some words. No, it doesn’t quite work that way. In fact, body language has a much larger impact on a conversation than verbal communication. In most cases, body language reveals what words might conceal. Actions speak louder than words, after all!
Imagine this scenario.
You wake up one chilly morning at your usual time only to find that your sister is still in bed. This worries you because your sister usually wakes up hours before you do. You go up to her bed and tap her till she wakes.
You ask, ‘Hey, you’re not up. Are you okay?’ to which she replies, ‘Yeah. I feel great!’ The problem with her answer is that you can feel her shivering through her duvet.
Will you believe she really feels well or will you think that she’s sick?
I’m sure you’d feel that she’s sick. This is because her body language communicated to you what her words didn’t. This goes to show how powerful body language is in the communication process.
When having conversations, it is important to use your face, hands, shoulders, or any other necessary body parts to clarify your words. Many people are visual and are more likely to remember your actions more than your words.
Body language helps spice up a conversation and make you become a better conversationalist. When you communicate through words only, the conversation might become boring more quickly than when you use body language too. That’s why most people prefer to talk in person than over the phone or email.
If you want to know how to read people’s body language accurate, these books will teach you how to.
Conversations can, sometimes, be hard to navigate, especially when you’re introverted by nature. However, these tips will certainly help you become a better conversationalist if you practice.
- Be honest
- Be genuinely interested in the conversation
- Don’t argue or judge
- Ask open-ended questions
- Give compliments
- Use positive body language