Some people are just naturally sociable. They love being around people and it shows. Many others struggle to start or join a conversation. While they may enjoy the company of others, they just don’t quite know what to say.
Engaging conversation is not a behavior trait, but a skill that anyone can master. It’s a skill that offers huge rewards – improved relationships, a wider circle of friends and better career opportunities. More importantly, it yields self-confidence in social situations.
What can you do today to improve your conversation skills?
1. Become other-people focused. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Take a sincere interest in what someone has to say. Ask questions. Show your interest. Remember that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
2. Listen more and plan less. Planning your response as the other person speaks breaks your connection. Active listening requires a sharp focus on what’s being said. When you really listen and take a sincere interest, your responses will flow naturally.
3. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. We’ve all run into people who relate every comment back to themselves. That’s not conversation. It’s self-absorption. Instead, learn how to shift back and forth between the speaker and listener role with ease. Pause your own stories, and ncourage others to talk about themselves as well.
4. Smile. Uncross your arms. If seated, lean into the conversation. Look at the other person. Your body language sends non-verbal cues that can speak louder than your words.
5. Offer help. The business networking group BNI is guided by the principle that givers gain. Members become a sales force for each other. They believe that by helping each other, they’re helping themselves. In conversation, being helpful includes making introductions and offering resources. You might also encourage someone who’s going through a rough spot, or share what you’ve learned through a similar circumstance. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to be helpful.
6. Read. Read books and articles about subjects that interest you. Read to learn and read for pleasure. Reading opens your mind to new ideas. 30 minutes to an hour daily with a good book will yield more interesting conversation topics than a day’s worth of television viewing.
You’ll note that very little was mentioned about what you should say. Rather, people with strong conversation skills know that it’s primarily about listening. If you want to be known as an engaging conversationalist, take a genuine interest in people and become a better listener.
Thanks to E3 Success Systems for including this post in the Carnival of Success Principles, and to Anja Merret for featuring this post in the Blog Carnival of Observations on Life.