With the high usage of our mobile devices and other forms of media communication, people are shredding their common everyday skills of face-to-face interactions. Some people have difficulties when faced with the task of mingling in a crowd of unfamiliar and sometimes familiar acquaintances. We’d rather send a text message to someone in the same room than hold a personal conversation or avoid communication altogether.
Good communication skills are still a vital part of our everyday interactions. A good Conversationalist can talk to anyone about anything in a laid-back, casual manner that sets people at ease. They can make a stranger feel like they have known them for years. Some people have a natural “sliver-tongue.” Being prepared with good communication skills will boost your chat in ways that make you a valued party guest or set you apart at a networking event, company functions, or a simple social gathering. For starters, listen more than you talk.
Ironically enough, the key to being a great conversationalist is not in the talking but in the listening. If you are conversing with someone and doing all the talking, you are probably the only one interested in what you say. Listen to what others have to say and listen well. This will also lead to questions you can ask to progress the conversations further. When asking questions, ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions encourage the respondent to elaborate or provide details in their response. Closed-ended questions with a simple yes or no reply will ultimately send the entire conversation on a downward spiraling dead-end.
Avoid political and religious topics unless you are attending your political party’s convention or a familiar religious function. Both of these areas deal with personal matters for many people and are not good for light conversations in mixed gatherings. They can sour a mood quickly. Also, keep in mind not to ask questions that are too personal or insulting. You want to make friends, not enemies.
Take your turn. Whether the conversation is with one person or several, join in. A conversation is a group project with each person playing a part. Don’t just stand around like an eavesdropper.
Contribute to the conversation. This is prime time to ask open-ended questions if you have nothing to add. On the other hand, don’t overshare or monopolize. It’s not a monologue.
Everyone should contribute. When you add to the conversation, avoid talking or directing your conversation to only one person. Make eye contact with others in the group. Be careful not to interrupt others.
Don’t be a Debbie or Donnie Downer. No one wants to engage in a conversation with someone who has nothing but negative comments about everything. People will exit your presence fast! It’s the quickest way to find yourself alone without anyone to engage with. Try to find the positive in the conversation and respond to that.
Don’t engage in “one-upping.” So, what is one-upping? That is when you try to top someone else’s story. If you have a good story to share, find a way without making the other person feel their story was of no value. Not only is one-upping petty, but it’s also very rude. You may have a terrific story to tell but reconsider at the risk of deflating someone else’s balloon.
Think before you speak. Most foot-in-mount moments occur because of a failure to think before speaking. You never want to be offensive, and you don’t want to embarrass yourself or others. Be careful what you say. You never know who’s listening, nor do you know who others know.
Be prepared with what to say and not say. Before you attend your event, think of some general topics and questions that will be of interest to anyone. “One of the easiest ways to start a conversation or stay in touch always offers value.” (Kesha Kent, Networking Is Your Superpower). Most of all, be friendly and confident. This will help you to be a savvy conversationalist.