Conversation is a skill that takes practise to develop, and experts in the art of conversation make you feel right at home with them straight away! Starting a conversation is the most difficult part of the game; once the conversation has been started past a few sentences, it's usually relatively easy to keep it flowing. What you are looking to achieve when you practise your conversation skills is to get the conversation to flow, without awkward pauses, and to make it about light topics. If you can manage that, and be actively interested in the conversation, then you'll do fine!
If you're reading this article, the chances are good that you're not that great at conversation. You've probably had plenty of situations where you're trying to think of something to say, and an awkward pause rears its ugly head! Hopefully this article will help steer you onto the right path towards becoming a conversation expert!
For conversation starters, you should ideally be looking for a topic that would engage the interest of the person with whom you will be speaking. For example, could you compliment them on their clothing or appearance? Are they carrying anything unusual? If you can't think of anything, maybe you could ask them for their opinion about some topic, such as which bottle of wine you should buy to complement a meal? A quick guide to making the conversation flow successfully follows.
Closed questions are questions for which a one-word answer will suffice, such as "Yes" or "No." "Do you live close by?" is an example of such a question. The trouble with these questions is that if the person you are talking to responds with a short answer like "Yes," there is nothing to latch on to that will allow you to develop the conversation further. It's best to avoid asking this type of question. If you are asked a closed question, you can help the conversation to flow by giving further details in your reply, and by asking a question in return. For example, a possible reply to "Do you live close by?" would be "Yes, I live about a quarter of a mile away, in the new housing estate. What do you think of the area?"
The question included in the answer given above is an example of an open question. Open questions are questions that require an answer with greater depth, such as, "I'm hosting a dinner party tonight. What wine would you recommend, and why?" The answer will give you more time and more information to allow you to move the conversation forward. Try to ask more of this sort of question and you will improve your conversation skills by leaps and bounds!
It's definitely worth asking questions about the person you are talking to, especially if you can notice details about them while doing so. For example, you could ask about the coat they are wearing. When they tell you where they got it, you could ask them what they like about that store, and what other stores they like to frequent! If you find they have a favourite subject, such as fashion, ask them lots of questions about that subject. People love to talk about themselves, so if you give them a chance, you can do plenty of listening and still come across as a great conversationalist! This is where you can start to really excel at the art of conversation.
You should also pay attention to your body language, making sure it is open and relaxed; leaning forward slightly, open arms and legs are in; leaning back with crossed arms and legs are definitely out! Also, be animated while you are talking. Moving your arms helps to illustrate points that you are making, and listening to someone speaking in a voice that naturally rises and falls in pitch is far more interesting than listening to somebody speaking in a monotone!
Try to catch their name, and use it every now and again. Three times or so in a first conversation would be good. Make sure you don't sound patronising, though. You're looking to remember their name if possible; you will score highly if you can do this well; and also, people love hearing their name!
There are certain subjects you should avoid if you are meeting someone for the first time, and want to move things forward. These are any subject that could be potentially explosive, such as religious views and politics. Try also not to bring the news into the conversation, except for light-hearted "dead donkey" pieces. Talking about someone who was murdered on the high street probably won't get you invited to dinner very quickly!
The vital thing that you must do to improve your conversation skills is to practise talking and listening to people! Practise wherever and whenever you can. Practise at parties, at the local bar, at the supermarket and on the high street. You will also improve your confidence. In fact, go and do some practising the very next opportunity you get! There's no time like the present to improve your conversation skills.
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