Over the years I have been told that I am easy to talk to and have good conversation skills. I guess that is because I am a peoples person, I just love meeting new people and having conversations with them on just about anything that may come up. It didn’t always used to be like this though, I have read a couple of books and been fortunate enough to know some brilliant conversationalists and learnt from them how to improve my own conversational and communication skills. How can you improve your conversational skills to become a welcome sight at every party and social event you attend? Here are some tips that might help.
1) Ask questions
The truth is that most people prefer to talk about themselves and are hardly interested to hear about the other person or people in the conversation. Asking non-threatening questions is a great way to start and refresh conversations. If you know someone moderately well then you should be aware of some of their interests so questions about these interests is a good way to start. As you get to know people better you can begin to ask more searching questions like “What is your greatest ambition in life?” or “What is the most challenging thing you have ever had to face?”
By asking questions you engage people and draw them in. It is said that small minds talk about people, moderate minds talk about events and great minds talk about ideas. By all means start the conversation with some small talk but once it is going be prepared to introduce some questions relating to issues and ideas.
A simple fact is that good conversationalists are good listeners. The key is to listen attentatively whether you are with one person or with a group of people. Also, when you listen you learn. When you are speaking you are not learning anything new. Make a conscious effort to focus on what people say. Show that you are genuinely interested by asking questions that support and develop the conversation; “What do you mean exactly?”, “What happened next?”, or “How did you feel about that?” I discussed more on this in a recent post called The Platinum Rule.
By listening and observing in a group situation you can time your contribution to bolster the current conversation or move it forward to something new and interesting.
3) Give compliments
Remember to give compliments whenever you can, and do it sincerely because people will know if you are just trying to flatter them. If someone looks smart or has lost weight or has a stylish new haircut then show that you have noticed by giving a genuine compliment.
4) Keep yourself current with topical issues
It is important to keep up to date on key current issues and topics in the news, entertainment, sports and politics. You should be ready to comment with questions, ideas, facts and opinions on the issues that other people are interested in. You can do this by seeing a few of the latest movies, read some of the most popular books, read the newspapers, watch the news, keep up with some major sports stories and watch some TV – but not too much:-) You do not need to slavishly follow every program but if someone asks you what are your favourite TV programmes then you should be able to list some popular and serious program and justify what it is you like about them.
Make your points with conviction, evidence and, if possible, humour. In a social environment be careful not to become belligerent or cantankerous. In general it is best to avoid really sensitive or controversial topics especially if they risk offending people’s personal feelings.
5) Be Funny
One thing I love to do is make people laugh and also have a good laugh myself. There is a place for serious discussion and there is a place for humour, so be ready to contribute in either environment. Be bold enough to add your comments and witticisms and carefully watch peoples reactions to see whether you are hitting the right note. Have a stock of funny stories. Do not force them into the conversation but rather have them ready when you get the cue or when there is an opening to use them. Personal anecdotes relating to unusual experiences and misfortunes that have happened to you often go down well. Jokes, quotes and other people’s witty remarks can also be used sparingly and with acknowledgement. Remember to laugh at other people’s funny stories, even if you have heard them before, but never give away someone else’s punch line.
6) Speak Clearly
When you speak, say what you have to say with clarity and enthusiasm. Don’t mumble your words, or rush through them or whisper so quietly that people have to strain to hear them. Good conversationalists are clear, articulate, and easy to understand. They use interesting metaphors and visual images. Keep your sentences short and to the point.
7) Enjoy yourself
Remember to just be yourself and don’t try to be anything that you are not. Relax and enjoy the occasion whatever it might be. People prefer to mix with the happy and good-natured rather than grumpy and miserable people. Have fun and really enjoy meeting new people at every opportunity.
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