Monday, August 22, 2011

Are You A Good Conversationalist?

No one is an island. You need to hone the art of conversation. [Pic]

Even Robinson Crusoe finds the need to converse with someone. He has Friday.

We are gregarious creatures and we need to interact with others. However, not everyone finds holding a conversation easy. Some would rather avoid it as much as possible. Why?

Taken from Wikipedia, 'conversation' is explained as "interactive, more-or-less spontaneous, communication between two or more conversants." The word 'spontaneous' makes conversation potentially challenging.

You do not usually 'prepare' a conversation the way you would with a speech. More often than not, the going is spontaneous. That is to be the problem faced by those who find holding a conversation trying, especially if spontaneity is not their forte.

A conversation is not about having many
concurrent monologues.

Let's look at some simple rules to improve your conversation skills:

12. Have a conversation, not a speech

If you would rather talk about yourself and not let anyone else have a chance, give a speech instead. Sometimes, there may be less active participants in the group. You can choose to 'invite' them by asking questions such as, "So, how was your vacation last week?".

11. Involve everyone

Everyone within the group should be active, contributing to the conversation. You should not dominate. Neither should you be passive. Constantly check yourself against the participation level of other members. Whenever you find yourself talking too much or too little, tune your involvement level.

10. Ask questions

Questions can ignite a conversation, making it lively. Simple questions such as "What do you think..?", "What is your favorite..?" can nudge everyone to say something. However, go easy on your questions. It is a conversation that you are a holding, not interrogation.

Use colorful and vibrant words to
liven up conversation.

9. Choose your words

A good conversationalist makes good use of descriptive and vibrant words. Use words that help others visualise and feel. Saying that your experience was a 'bad' one is certainly not as lively as saying it was "nerve-wrecking.". See "Choose Your Words".

8. Avoid using jargon or being pompous

Big words are not necessarily impressive, unless you shower them on your English teachers. Use easily understood words and avoid being too technical. Save your jargons for conversations with people in the same fraternity.

Be simple. Be understood. People have been saying "I love you" for centuries". They do not say "I am immensely infatuated by you" for obvious reasons. See "Don't Be A Jargon Junky".

7. Choose appropriate topics

Unless everyone in the group is a fan of Luciano Pavarotti, don't keep going on and on about how you love operas. Choose everyday topics instead. It doesn't mean that you have to confine yourself to talk about the weather. In Singapore, talking about food and shopping can't go very wrong.

In any conversation, you need active listening. [Pic]

6. Listen

Listening to someone is more than just holding back you interruption. You need to be attentive and acknowledge what is being said along the way. If you start to wander off and worry about when you can pick up your kids, you will lose yourself in the conversation. At times, it can be embarrassing.

I wrote about 'active listening' in "Listen! It's Been A Year!". Take a look.

5. Do some homework

If you are meeting someone for the first time, it is a good idea to find out more about him first. You can find out from common acquaintance or get information in the public domain. However, you might not want to be over zealous in showing how much you know about him. It can be creepy and he may think that you have been stalking him. Use the information you know as conversation starter instead. If you found out on social networks that he likes scuba diving, you can ask him if he is into any sports. Let him tell you about scuba diving, not the other way round.

4. Move around

If you are having conversations at social gatherings, move around and mingle with different groups of people. Learning how to cut into a group is part of the social skills you need to acquire. A simple starter such as "Hey! I see that you have something interesting to say about the latest..." would usually earn you the 'right' to join a new conversation group.

You can revive a stalled conversation by
revisiting earlier topics.

3. Run out of things to say? Don't panic!

You don't have to feel awkward when where is a prolonged silence in the group. All you have to do is to revisit what was conversed earlier and ask some questions relating to those topics. Say something like "I was thinking about what you said earlier...". Very often, the group would end up starting a new conversation topic. Alternatively, you can scan around the room, pick up some objects and strike a conversation with them. After asking "I wonder who would pay for something like that?", the group should be ready to jump in and start the conversation anew.

2. Be constructive and positive

You do not have to agree with everyone all the time. But, do offer alternative views in a constructive and respectful way. Remember, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If you are perceived as someone forceful in personal opinion, the other people may find the conversation daunting.

1. Have a graceful exit

All great conversations will come to an end. Do not just walk away. End it with a positive note by saying something such as "It has been enlightening talking to you" or "I hope to catch up with you sometime. See you again".

Conversation can be tough when dealing
with difficult people.

Be prepared for difficult conversation

I would not want to make the art of conversation sound overly simplistic. The truth is, some conversations can be very stressful causing much anxiety. Having a conversation with someone who is unreasonable, dishonest, hostile or emotionally wrecked is not fun. In social settings, we can afford to avoid such conversations altogether. However, in life, one needs to survive difficult conversations sometimes, at home or at work. I won't cover much here (maybe another time) but I will leave some references at the end of this article.

Even if you think you generally have little difficulties holding a conversation, you might have some 'bad habits' that you aren't aware of. Take some time to reflect over the above pointers and refine your skills. For those who find it tough to enjoy a conversation, you just have to start doing it. It will get easier.

I will end here by leaving you with some references to help you handle difficult conversations:

"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment." ~Dorothy Nevill~

Stumble Upon Toolbar

1 comment:

Quotes Inspirational said...

Postings are nice and good attention too. Sharing is a wonderful thing.