Generally, when meeting new people, the quality of your interaction is tied to two factors, 1. The compatibility of values, and 2. Conversational skills.
Let’s face it. Even if you are Oprah Winfrey, it is often difficult to keep up a good quality conversation. Whether with your date, friend, or work colleague, it might be hard to always find the right thing to say at the right time.
Whether you love standing around and chatting or cringe at the thought of yet another “forced” conversation, being a good conversationalist is important for both networking and forming relationships. So, let’s talk—specifically, about how you can improve your conversational skills with the following killer tactics that we are sure will help you build up some amazing conversation skills.
Be Curious & Compliment
Show the person you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Who is this person? What’s on his/her mind? What does he/she enjoy doing? What motivates him/her in life? These are the types of natural questions which will propel you into an in depth conversation.
When you can, show empathy for what they are saying by remarking about a common experience. This strengthens the communication bond.
Put the person in his/her best light. Always look for ways to make the person look good. Give credit where credit is due. Recognize talent where you see it. Drop compliments where appropriate. Allow the person to shine in his/her own light.
Tell Stories & Be Funny
Share comical experiences and stories to lighten the mood, and if you can’t be funny, at least be high energy. People open up to those who are fun to talk to.
Listen To Body Language
Try to pick up a sense when you may have lost someone’s attention. That way, you avoid boring someone to death.
Likewise, if someone is ceaselessly chattering, and you need to exit the conversation, try honesty by saying like, “That is true, and I’ve love to talk more about that another time", and then end the conversation.
Or, for an awkward question you aren't sure how to answer, try something along the lines of "That is a great question, let me come back to you," then either pivot to another topic, or make an excuse to leave.
Call Them By Name
Always use their name! This way you will acknowledge their identity and succeed in putting them at ease, which is essential for the conversation to fly.
Converse – Don’t Debate
A conversation should be a platform where opinions are aired, not a battle ground to pit one’s stance against another. Be ready to chat, discuss, and thrash out ideas, but do so amiably. There’s no need to have a conclusion or agreement point in every discussion. Allow for things to be left open-ended if a common point can’t be achieved.
If it gets awkward, use this as a platform to spin off and change the subject of discussion, which will ultimately reveal more about both of you, and new commonalities will hopefully unveil, allowing you to build on them further.
Set A Positive Tone
When opening up a conversation try to sound positive and friendly. By taking responsibility for the emotional vibe you will set the tone of the conversation. People usually react accordingly to how you react (or talk) to them.
Go for the positive topics. Which means rather than talk about past grievances, opt for a discussion of future goals. Rather than talk about the coffee that spilled on your table this morning, talk about that movie you are looking forward to watch later in the evening.
It’s okay to talk about “negative” topics once in a while, but only when you feel it is okay with the other party and when it has a specific purpose (e.g., to get to know the other person better or to bond with the person).
Respect; don’t impose, criticize, or judge. Respect other people’s point of view. Respect other people’s space—don’t encroach on the person’s privacy unless a common bond has been established. Respect other people’s personal choices—don’t criticize or judge. Everyone has his/her right to be him/herself, just as you have the right to be yourself.
If you don't know much about the individual you are speaking with, you may not be aware of certain past or present experiences. Tread carefully when questioning, for example, a common question could be "do you have children"? That individual may not be able to have children, so asking that question could be upsetting. Basically, we are just advising to think before you ask what could be a simple, yet problematic question.
Politics and religion are well-known taboo topics, they are equally dangerous territories to discuss, especially when you don't know someone well, try and pick less obviously sensitive subjects.
Make A Mental List Of Topics
To avoid running out of topics and not know how to keep the conversation interesting, try to make a mental list of things you could talk about. Knowing that you could go on for some time will also help you calm down if you are stressed.
The more decisions you make in one day, the worse the decisions become. So if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail - Plus too much thinking could turn you into an energy vampire!
Use The Environment
And when you are at the end of your mental list and running out of topics, just have a look around and get inspired by the environment surrounding you. You’ll be amazed by how long you could talk about that painting hanging on the wall, those pretty flowers - and you may even stumble across a new passion of your new acquaintance…
Share The Lime Light
Try not to overpower the conversation. A great conversation should be made up of equal sharing by both parties opportunities to contribute to the conversation. What this means is that you should be sensitive enough to pose questions to the other party if you have been talking for a while.
It also means that you should take the initiative to share more about yourself if the other party has been sharing for the most part. Just because the person doesn’t ask doesn’t mean you can’t share; sometimes people don’t pose questions because it is not in their natural self to do so.
Maybe due to stress or anxiety, you might run the risk of talking all the time without realising it! So share the lime light, it will also help the other individual open up about themselves. And the more you know, the better!
Test The Understanding
Try to ask some small, sneaky, questions about the topic you have just talked about. In this way, you will find out if you still have the person’s attention or if he/she is being distracted by something else.
Learn To Pivot
Don’t always feel obliged to reply to an question. Sometimes you can answer a question asking something else back. It is the perfect way to get in control of the conversation and let people understand you are a strong career babe.
Pivot to what you want to discuss. If you’re in a job interview, for example, and you feel you are not getting your due, use the phrase, “Let me share an experience”. That way you can point to your talents and how you excel.
Follow The Conversation Branch
If you see a conversation as a tree, each question and topic is a branch, learn how to masterfully keep a conversation going by spotting different branches and knowing how to open up a question and when to artfully shut it down.
The kind of questions you ask will steer the direction of the conversation. To have a meaningful conversation with the other person, ask meaningful questions. Choose questions like, “What drives you in life?”, “What are your goals for the next year?” and “What inspired you to make this change?” over “What did you do yesterday?” and “What are you going to do later?”.
Some people may not be ready to take on conscious questions, and that’s fine. Start off with the simple, trivial, everyday questions as you build a rapport. Then, get to know the person better through deeper, more revealing questions—when you think the person is ready to share.
Remember To Give & Take
A conversation is like Christmas, you should give and take. Sometimes people make pretty weird comments during conversations. For example, a critical comment here and there, a distasteful remark, and a bad joke. Don’t judge them for those comments; treat these blurts as little mishaps. Give them the benefit of doubt (unless clearly proven otherwise).
We all make some random oddball comments sometimes which leave you wondering why you even did that afterwards. Just laugh or shrug it off; it makes for funny conversation banter.
Be true to yourself. Your best asset is your true personality. Embrace it and let it shine. Don’t cover it up. It’ll be pretty boring if all you do is mime the other person’s words during a conversation; there wouldn’t be anything to discuss at all. Be ready to share what you are proud of, stand for, and let others know the real you.
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