Being a good conversationalist is about more than just being likable.
It would be way too easy to put good conversation down to charisma and likability. Certain innate personality traits probably play a role, but anyone can learn how to better interact with others.
In an article for TED, Julian Treasure outlines four key conversation traps that people fall into and why we need to free ourselves from them:
- Impressing others. Being preoccupied with impressing others or looking intelligent makes it impossible to listen to the other person in the conversation. As Treasure puts it, “As that irrelevant noise — you speaking — is going on in front of me, I am concentrating on composing my next brilliant monologue.” In addition, Treasure points out how draining it is to be around someone who is difficult to please. Instead, value others’ contributions, stories, and emotions, and practice letting go of self-focus.
- Being right. “The need to be right can arise from a fear of being disrespected. Or it may come out of the fear of being seen as we really are, as flawed human beings who are perfectly imperfect and full of contradictions and confusions.” Nothing kills a relationship so quickly as the need to be right all the time. Have patience with others even if you disagree.
- Pleasing everyone. If you find yourself caving to opinions and beliefs you disagree with or always agreeing to go along with what someone else wants, you might struggle with people-pleasing. “Ask yourself: What do I stand for? What is important to me in life? What is not negotiable?”
- Fixing everyone. “Fixers” can’t tolerate strong emotions, in themselves or in others, and, as a result, their response to other people’s emotions is one of trying to fix everyone else’s problems. This discomfort with emotional expression can be caused by a variety of factors, but the key to overcoming it is learning to accept your own powerful emotions so that you can accept others’, too.
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