There's an art to talking with others and when we learn it, our relationships are richer.
Talking comes naturally to us—and conversation does, too. But have you ever noticed that there are people you find more pleasant to talk to? They don’t have to be the most interesting person in the world, or the smartest. There’s something else that makes them good conversationalists.
Sometimes we also have the opposite experience; we meet someone and find them tiring to talk with, because they always repeat the same thing, or because they don’t listen. As with all human behavior, even if it’s natural, there are always tricks and tips that help us to do better. Here are three tips distilled from the advice of experts.
1First, you must know how to listen
This is the first basic rule, and it’s easy: two monologues don’t add up to a conversation. That’s right, if you talk only about yourself, or if you only show interest when it’s your turn, then you’re not having a conversation. You’re doing something else.
Listening is fundamental. Listen with interest. In fact, interest is essential to having a real conversation. One way we can show our interest is ask the other person questions from time to time.
Even if you get distracted and miss something at some point, ask questions with interest. However, don’t switch off when something doesn’t interest you; that breaks up the conversation.
We also need to be willing to take turns talking, giving the other person equal opportunity, so that the conversation has a good rhythm: neither dominating the conversation, nor interrupting.
2Body language: Your face and gestures speak for you
Your tone, your intonation, your face, your gestures… They’re all important. I’m sure you know people, a mom or dad for example, who can effectively reprimand their children without raising their voice or using harsh words.
We need to be aware of how our mood and attitude affects our conversation. We can say normal things with such a sullen tone that it’s aggressive. Analyze yourself. We live with ourselves and sometimes aren’t aware of how we talk. You can record yourself: nowadays — our cell phones are high-quality audio and video recorders. Try listening to your tone of voice, and your expressions when you talk; that way you’ll know how other people see and hear you.
And speaking of image: when you talk to someone, always look them in face.
3Respect: If you give it, you get it
It’s a lack of education to want to prove that you’re the smartest person in a conversation. Even if you are—let’s say because it’s a conversation about growing corn, or quantum physics, a subject in which you are an expert—you must treat those who are speaking to with respect, without trying to dazzle them.
Aphorisms, set phrases, quotes from experts … Leave them to the comedic characters of TV series and movies. Really.
Too many set phrases give a feeling of lack of content. If you overdo it with quotes, you can come across as pedantic. And, well, you surely know this already, but if you’re not very funny, don’t try to be. That’s not to say you should always be dead serious; use your smile—it’s a great ally for good conversation.
When it comes to topics of conversation, it’s often better to avoid thorny, complicated issues. Nevertheless, sometimes you end up having to argue over a point. There’s also a place for that, as long as you do it with respect. If we don’t agree on something, it’s better to explain our position calmly with reasoned arguments than to get hot under the collar.