Hi, friends. In today’s post, I’ll share a few ways that you can be a better conversationalist at work, with friends, at social functions, or anywhere people exchange words.
Do you want to know how to make a good first impression? Do you want to facilitate conversations that go deeper than the surface level? Do you want to NOT be someone people dread talking to? This post lists and explains three methods for doing so. 😉
We can and do often use body language to convey our level of interest. Do you feel put off when someone looks at their phone while you talk to them? They’re illustrating through their body language that they aren’t tuned into the conversation.
Good active listening involves eye contact first and foremost. The other person knows you care about what they’re saying if you meet their gaze rather than looking at the floor, your phone, etc. [Bonus: meeting eye contact also makes you seem more confident.] Great active listening means meeting the other person’s gaze and also nodding and saying words here and there like “mhmm,” “yes,” “wow,” “really?” etc. These small gestures show you are invested in the conversation. Excellent active listening involves all the above + repeating back things they’ve said in a condensed form in your own words. Doing so displays that you not only listened but genuinely understood.
Here’s a definition of true listening that I like: “True listening is suspending one’s own agenda.” How often do we appear to be listening to someone, but in our heads, we are contemplating our own thoughts and what we will say next? Guilty! But I’ve found it almost impossible to practice active listening without truly listening, so if you deliberately implement these tips, you can more easily suspend your own agenda.
Ask people about themselves
My dad once imparted some words of wisdom to me–asking other people about themselves makes you seem more intelligent. Here’s my personal observation: doing so demonstrates a higher level of self-awareness than the average person, and self-awareness often coincides with intelligence level. It’s possible to be smart and have no self-awareness (like the good ol’ saying, “They’re book-smart, but they have no common sense.”), but I don’t know that it’s possible to have a high level of self-awareness and NOT be decently sharp.
Expressing interest in other people’s lives shows that, unlike many people, you know that the world does not revolve around you. You have the self-awareness to recognize that you and your life are not the most exciting, interesting things in the world. Spelling this out seems silly, but many people do believe that–on a subconscious level–which is why they always talk about themselves and ponder what they will say next instead of truly listening. Even worse is when a person includes many insignificant and tedious details in a story; to me, this habit reveals that a person has little to no self-awareness.
To be fair, some people are shy, while some people really do have wild lives with many crazy stories to share. Still, my tip stands true: asking others about themselves will make you a better conversationalist. The other person will see that you care about them, their job, their opinion on something, whatever the case may be. And don’t just ask one surface-level question about the other person and immediately revert to talking about yourself again. Ask them a question, then ask the next question based off their answer; they’ll know you were really listening.
Don’t try to “empathize”
This trap is easy to fall into. Many people attempt to “empathize” with someone by turning the conversation back to themselves.
This idea represents a gray area. Empathizing may me fitting in certain scenarios, such as people sitting around exchanging funny stories at a social gathering or someone seeking your advice with a situation…but all too often, people’s attempts to “empathize” are just a way to get back to their favorite subject (themselves!).
Though this is better judged on a case-by-case basis, I think a helpful distinction to make is “serious” vs. “light-hearted.” If someone is venting about a situation or talking about something serious, let them have the floor. If someone is telling a light-hearted story, it’s probably fine to chime in with your own light-hearted story. Whatever the circumstance, at least let them finish their story and soak up the spotlight for a little while before you jump in and dominate the conversation. [No one likes to feel cut short!]
I’m sure I’ve excluded some other great tips, but three is a satisfying number, and this post is getting long. In summary: to facilitate better conversations, try actively listening and encouraging the other person to talk about themselves. Also, be mindful of when it might or might not be appropriate to “empathize.” You’ll seem more intelligent, confident, and thoughtful.
Thanks for reading! What’s your two cents? Have you ever talked to or known a person who broke all these rules (and did it drive you mad)? Let me know in the comments.