1. Talk slowly
Typically, good talkers don’t rush into a conversation. They take their time when they reflect on something and when they say it out loud. They act as if they have all the time in the world. This makes them come off as centered and collected. Model this way of talking and you will create the same effect.
2. Hold more eye contact
Most people keep eye contact about 2/3 of the time or less when they talk. In my experience, it’s a very good idea to hold eye contact just a bit more than that. This will convey confidence and interest in interacting with them.
3. Notice the details
People with good conversation skills tend to notice the kind of things that the average person doesn’t notice, and to bring such details into the conversation. They may notice and point out an interesting ring on the other person’s hand, a certain foreign accent, or a certain voice tone they use when saying a name. Thus, such individuals impress people in a very elegant manner.
4. Give unique compliments
Anybody can pay a generic compliment to try and get another person’s appreciation. Charismatic people on the other hand are able to really pay attention to others, to look beyond the facade and thus, pay unique compliments. Do the same and besides wooing others, you may even help them find out things about themselves they didn’t know.
5. Express your emotions
It’s very rare to meet a person who is comfortable talking about their emotions and how certain things make them feel, especially with strangers. Yet this way of talking is a real virtue. Don’t just present the facts, you’re not a newspaper. Express your feelings about those facts. Keep in mind that it is at the emotional level that people connect best.
6. Offer interesting insights
Anybody can talk about the news or express basic opinions. But good talkers can frequently tell you things you didn’t know and that you’ll find fascinating. This is why it’s good to have knowledge into fields such as psychology or sociology and bring such knowledge out at the right moments in a conversation.
7. Use the best words
The ability to talk smoothly has a lot to do with choosing the precise words to convey your precise feelings or thoughts. Constantly develop your vocabulary and practice communicating as accurately as possible. It will help you develop a way with words and allow you to express yourself more easily.
conversational techniques that will improve your ability to listen to and understand others:
- Synthesizing: “So it seems like there are really three different issues going on here, which are…” Summarizing, which is what many people do, is boring and tedious to the other person. Synthesizing shows you are listening but goes further and adds value through big-picture thinking.
- Active listening: Interjecting “OK, Uh huh, that’s right, I see” to communicate that you are paying attention.
- Non-verbal listening: Using your body and eyes to show you are completely focused on the other person. Avoid “tells” like looking at your watch, letting your eyes wander around the room, and so on.
- Echoing: Repeating the last word spoken. Client: “So as a result, there’s very high attrition.” You: “Attrition.” Client: “Yes, we think it’s well above the industry average. In fact, last year we lost 20% of the sales force.” You: “20%” Client: “Well, some of it was uncontrollable attrition like retirements, but…”
- Disclosure: “I know what you mean—two years ago I also missed a major family event due to a deadline at work…” Sharing your own experiences, in a non-condescending manner, can create a more intimate and meaningful dialog. If you are interested in the psychology of this, look up the “Johari Window,” devised by Ingham and Luft . The idea is that mutual disclosure—not one person talking and the other simply listening—leads to empathy and understanding.
- Open-ended questions: “What would it take to get alignment around this issue?” “What have your past experiences been with outside advisors?” There is some research which indicates that successful sales executives use more open-ended than closed-ended questions in the sales process.
- Provocative questions: “Why?” “So what?” “Why are you in this business?” “Why do you think you need outside help?” Last year, I was referred to an expert on newsletter marketing. I called him to explore how I might expand the circulation of Client Loyalty (it’s close to 3000 direct subscribers right now, and most of the articles are reprinted in other newsletters, giving them closer to 15,000 or 20,000 readers each month). His first question was, “So Andrew, why do you want more subscribers? Maybe you should have fewer.” At first I was irritated, but then I realized that I had not completely thought through what my goals for the newsletter were. His provocative question made me think.
- Provocative or “turnaround” answers: Client: “So what can you do for us?” You: “I don’t know” Client: “The CEO is challenging our use of consultants” You: “I don’t blame him.”*
- Questions about the meaning of words: Client: “This is a very dysfunctional organization.” You: “What do you mean by ‘dysfunctional?’” Client: “Basically, we want our relationship managers to up their game and stop playing politics.” You: “What does ‘playing politics’ mean in your organization?” Don’t assume you understand exactly what your client means when he or she uses certain terms!
- Questions about the past: “How and when did this start?”
- Questions about the present: “What are you doing now to fix this?”
- Questions about the future: “If this project succeeds, what would things look like a year from now?”
- Personal questions: “What are your own aspirations in the organization?” “Who have your mentors been?” Don’t kid yourself—every client gains some personal value from working with us.
- Questions about feelings: “How did you feel about that decision?” Usually, we ask about thoughts—“What do you think?” Asking about feelings can tap into a whole new aspect of the issue.
- Use of humor: Appropriate jokes or quips, self-deprecation, “break the ice” humor, and so on.
- Not answering: “I don’t know your company well enough to answer that. I can tell you what I’ll be looking for, however”; “I don’t know. Let me get back to you.” Saying “I don’t know” can build, not erode, trust.
- Questions about the question: “Let me make sure I understand your question: Are you asking if it’s a good idea or if it’s feasible?” Or, “I’m curious about why you’re asking me that…” (Note: be careful not to overuse this latter technique, which can come across as contrived or evasive if used too often or at the wrong moment).
- Questions about what is missing: “Is there anything I haven’t asked about that you think is relevant?
Being a good conversationalist is in my opinion one of the most essential skills to have in life. It opens up doors for you in your business, personal, social and dating life. With these skills you are truly abundant, you will have endless opportunities.
The First Step to Great Conversational Skills
- Of course there are some very obvious things that make you a good conversationalist. Things like treating other like you want to be treated yourself, being friendly and respectful, and looking people in the eye when you talk to them. These are common truths.
- Having good conversation skills is about being a good listener, making people feel comfortable, and being an interesting person yourself.When I started on the road to developing my conversation skills I believed that I had to be extremely interesting to be a good conversation partner.
I tried to impress people with all my stories and jokes and was talking to them nonstop. Later on I found out, that when you talk to people, it’s better to have the spotlight shine on them.
First let them shine and make them feel good. Then, after that, they will get curious about you. In my opinion a good conversation consists of the other party putting in at least half of the talking. So…
- Be a good listener
Probably the most important thing to be seen as someone with great conversation skills is to be a great listener. As I said, you don’t necessarily have to be a funny person with great stories. If you are a really good listener, people will believe and probably even say that you have great conversation skills.
So be attentive to what the person you are talking to is saying. Really listen. Shut out all the other noise and distractions.
Most people’s favorite subject is themselves, so let them talk!
Also, while they’re talking, don’t merely stand there staring at them. But smile when they say something funny, nod and agree when you think they’re right and say “uhuh” and “mmm” to acknowledge them.
These little gestures and noises show that you are committed to the conversation and that you are really listening. People love good listeners!
Ask verifying questions as this also shows that you are really in tune with what the speaker is saying. “Really?” “When was this?” “I didn’t get that, explain some more please.” “Where was this?” “How did you do that?” “With whom did you do that?” Etc.
When You Are Talking / Telling A Story:
- Paint the picture
Use emotional language and use your words to describe the noun.
Try to speak in a way that gets people to imagine how it was for you.
Tell it in such a way that they feel they were there with you. If you do so, people can really get into how it was for you and will start to imagine how they would feel in such a situation. They will be captivated by your story.
- Speak the details
Talk about how you felt in the moment. Who was there with you? What were you doing? Where was it? What was the situation? What was happening around you? Etc.
People can’t really imagine how it was for you when you say: “We went to a nice beach with clear water and hot sand…”
But when you say: “Me and two of my close friends went to this long stretched beach with crisp white sand as far as you could see. We had the day off so we really had that nice, free holiday feeling and were really excited to go to the beach.
When we got there the sun was hot as hell and when you were not wearing your flip flops, you would burn your feet so you’d be hopping and skipping over the beach like a skippy ball!
And the sea, wow! Emerald see through water, absolutely amazing. When we got in the temperature was just perfect. And the water was so incredible clear that you could see the bottom even when the water was 5 meters deep!”
To Keep The Conversation Going:
- Ask open ended questions
To keep a conversation going, you want to ask open ended questions. These are questions that you can’t answer with one word.
They most often start with the 5 W’s:
But, “how” and “what if” are also almost always at the beginning of an open ended question.
A quick example:
A closed ended question: “Do you like rock music?”
An open ended question: “What kind of rock music do you like?”
- That reminds me of… To keep a conversation going you can use this great technique. Of course you want to listen to what the person is saying, but all the while you can quickly ask yourself “What does this remind me of?”
You have an immense amount of experience stored in your brain. You can almost always find a thing in your life that relates to what your conversation partner is speaking of.
This technique takes a little practice, but if you keep asking yourself this question every time you are speaking with someone, it will come as second nature to you within a few weeks.
- Change the subject
A real master of conversation skills knows how to change the conversation. So, when the subject you guys are talking about gets boring, or there’s a silence in the conversation, use this magic word:
You can say this brilliant word in just about any situation. You say anyway and you follow it up with a question.
“Anyway, what do you do for fun when you’re not working?”
Conversation Skills For Conversational Mastery
Before you approach someone, and while you are talking, smile! There is nothing more inviting than a smile. It is disarming and shows you are a friendly person. It communicates that you approve of the other person. It makes the other party feel at ease.
- Use their name
For some reason, people love to hear their own name. It gives them a sense of importance and recognition.
Can you recall a time when someone asked you “what was your name again?” You probably felt as if you were not important enough.
You don’t want to do this to other people, so remember their name and use it sparinglyin conversation.
To get people to open up, it has been my experience that the easiest way to do this is to open up yourself. An example:
You might first ask them a question.
“What kind of sports do you like?”
The person might answer:
“I like a lot of different sports, but I’m a big fan of soccer”
Then if you can relate to that, tell them a story about how you like soccer also. Maybe you are a really bad player, but you like it so much because of the third half (drinking beer with your buddies in the canteen).
If you can’t relate to that, maybe ask them why they like soccer so much.
They might say they like the team aspect of it and being completely in the moment, not thinking of anything but the game.
Then relate to that. Where do you experience this in your life also? Then tell your personal story.
Relating to other people, and telling a personal story, gets the conversation deeper and invites the person to open up. People feel comfortable doing so because you showed them that it’s OK. This is the way to a great conversation.
When people tell you something that you find interesting, tell them! Reward them for telling you something interesting.
This will encourage them to tell you more impressing things.
In training they taught you that to improve your conversation skills you should mirror the other person’s body language and voice tone. This makes them feel more comfortable with you.
You do this by sitting or standing in a way similar to how they sit or stand. If they sit back, you sit back. If they use a lot of hand gestures when they speak, you do this also. Of course wait until it is your turn to speak. You don’t want them to think you’re mocking them!
With your speech and voice tone the same thing. If the person speaks very fast, you speak a little faster as well. If they talk very slow, you slow down a bit also.
You are not parroting here, don‘t make it too obvious. Just make it so that your way of speaking is more similar to that of your conversation partner.
What this accomplishes is it makes your conversation partner feel “this person is just like me”. It creates a bond of familiarity and one of “old friends”.
The tips and techniques written above are a lot of ways to improve your conversation skills. Don’t try to use them all at once because you will feel overwhelmed. And you will not succeed either!
Instead, take one of them. Or maybe two. And practice those for a week with everyone you speak to. Then in about a couple of months of practicing you will have amazing conversation skills. Now how would that benefit your social life?
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