How to Become a Great Conversationalist

Written by Do I Editorial

If you’ve ever run through a web portal for job openings, the one requirement you’ll see under almost every listing will be the ‘Ability to communicate effectively.’ If you’ve ever faced a socially awkward situation, it is usually because of lack of effective communication.  What is it
that makes effectual communication so important?

Being able to hold a good conversation is one of the traits of a successful person. This includes your ability to be witty, intelligent, polite and sensitive when you speak. If you find yourself unable to show any of these qualities, run through the following tips to help you become a
good conversationalist.

• First and foremost, pay attention to what the speaker is saying. Don’t drift off or interrupt the person if you’re bored. Seek first to understand what is being said and then try to be understood. Paraphrase what the speaker has said to show that you’re listening and also to clarify if you’ve understood correctly. Give affirmative head nods to show that you’re interested.

• Ask questions if necessary; avoided asking questions that have a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Ask open-ended questions to urge the person to open up to you. Adopt the ‘feeling reflection’ technique where you read the person’s expressions and then make a comment. For instance, saying things like ‘seeing your irritated look I can only assume you’re annoyed.’ This way, the speaker will know that you understand him/her.

• Adopt open gestures which give out a positive vibe and avoid closed gestures which exude negativity. Smile, lean forward slightly and maintain eye contact and a relaxed posture. Shake hands warmly and don’t be overly expressive in terms of facial movements. Don’t fidget, glance at your watch or at the door, frown or maintain a stiff posture. This will only make you look disinterested and bored.

• Always be responsive when needed. Self-disclosure is a great way to turn the conversation around without it seeming impolite. Remember to give information but not advice. Be alert about what you are saying at all times. Most importantly, think before you speak. Don’t brag, lie or put up an act.

• Making comparisons, using words like ‘stupid’ and ‘fool’, remembering your personal experiences instead of listening to the speaker and forcing your opinion on others are just some of the barriers to a great discussion. It’s as important to be as good a listener as it is to be an orator.

• Any conversation can involuntarily steer to an issue that a person is sensitive about. Immediately change the topic at this stage if it’s within your control. If not, be reassuring to the sensitive person. Give him/her a pat on the back if it makes them feel comfortable. To avoid such instances completely, stay away from sensitive topics and avoid gossiping.

• Be prepared, especially for more formal interactions.  Do some background reading or thinking on what is likely to be discussed.  If you don’t have a fair knowledge of the conversation subject, you are likely to fumble during the conversation.

Ensure that you coordinate you verbal and non-verbal skills and techniques including your vocals (tone, pitch and voice), expressions and gestures. Each of these pointers is equally important and in order to be a great conversationalist, you need to adopt a balanced mix of all of them.

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