Becoming a great conversationalist takes proper planning and hard work. But, mastering the art of conversation is worth it. Outstanding conversation gets noticed and so does the person behind it.
Have you ever been to a social event and watched someone with an "Aw Shucks, I'm from a farm down home" look about them because they can't string two words together. They may be too shy or just have nothing to say. Either way, it's not pretty. In most cases it's not because a person can't hold a conversation, it's because they haven't prepared for conversation. As with everything in life, great conversationalists understand this simple but important tenet: proper planning prevents poor performance (P5).
The following six steps should help you be better prepared when you next enter a room full of people.
Readers are leaders and good conversationalists. Keep up to speed with the latest events happening in your world through newspapers, television and radio. There's always something topical happening ... make sure you know about it and that you have an opinion on it.
Ooze with confidence
Confidence is a massively attractive trait. People like talking to confident, authoritative and powerful people because it makes them feel safe. You'll attract more people to you than bees to a honey pot if you can appear confident.
Eye contact is critical
Make sure that you establish good eye contact when speaking to someone. Not the Charles Manson "thousand yard stare" kind of eye contact ... that's just scary. Never break eye contact when you're busy making an important point. If you start looking like a sneaky, edgy Coyote, it puts doubt on your integrity and on the validity of your words. So does touching your face, nose and ears whilst speaking. This just makes you look like a fibber. This normally happens when you're not sure of yourself or your subject. Sigmund Freud once said that the body oozes deceit.
Compliments help you make friends
We all love compliments don't we? Make the compliment sincere, brief and specific. Most important of all, the compliment must be based on fact otherwise it just becomes empty flattery. For instance, if you saw someone helping an old lady carry her groceries to her car, your compliment would go something like this: "When I saw you helping that old lady with her groceries the other day, I realized that you're a kind and thoughtful person." That compliment is based on evidence. However, if you say, "That's a beautiful red tie you're wearing ... wow, you're a real go-getter and confident person." Well, that's just plain old flattery, isn't it? Wearing a red tie is certainly not evidence of any kind of personality trait, is it? Of course, if someone compliments you, you should react in an appropriate way. When you receive a compliment, simply smile and say "thank you". By doing this, you do wonders for your confidence and you acknowledge the thoughtfulness (and courage) of the person who complimented you.
Become a great listener
Any conversation should follow the 80/20 rule. You do 20 percent of the talking and the rest of the time you're listening. People like to talk, so let them talk. It makes them feel important and it turns you into a friend. And, the bonus is that they think you're a great conversationalist. Sometimes its hard to get someone to open up. You can get them talking by ...
Asking great questions
Ask elaborating questions that force a person to open up. Here are some examples: "Really?" "How did that make you feel?" "That must have been exciting. Tell me more."
Try some of these tips next time you're at a cocktail party or conference and become the person people want to listen to.