It turns out that making simple conversation is not as simple as some would think. Recently, I was able to witness how sometimes even successful people with a great bundle of knowledge in various topics cannot build an engaging conversation.
That led me to think about what qualities make a person good at conversations. Going through my mind and remembering all the people who had a great impression on me, I highlighted a few points that might be helpful to build a great conversation.
6 Tips to Improve Your Conversations and Make Lasting Impressions
Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness.
– Margaret Millar
1. Know your audience
Imagine you are selling vacuum cleaners. Would you target teenagers studying at high school? Surely not. The same applies when you build a conversation. You might have experienced it before when a person with different passions from you keeps going on about something without taking note of your lack of interest. If you avoid those people yourself, then do not be one. For example, do not go into discussing only rugby with a person who is not into sports. If you do not know the person, then ask them about their interests first, and then improvise.
I was a guest at a party once where a few people came up to me and introduced themselves. After learning what I do for a living, they started asking questions about it and then commented with their opinions. You can do the same by asking a person about their job or interests and improvising with a later conversation.
2. Be aware of off-limit topics
There are things you can discuss and things you cannot discuss. Of course, if the person you talk to is a very close family member, friend or someone you are sure will tolerate your opinions, you might disregard this advice. But if it is a person who you do not know well, do not even try getting into a conversation about politics or religion.
These topics are extremely personal, and everyone I have ever met has their own unique thoughts on both, even among people who belong to the same political party or belief system. The discussion is never-ending and will often lead to nothing but fights.
3. Become a person of tact
Have you ever had a conversation where the person you’re talking to makes a comment that upsets you or puts you in a difficult position? For example, I was sharing my intention to study abroad with a girl one time, when she replied: “Yes, that is a great idea, but only smart people get an education abroad.” Back at university, I knew a guy who repelled everyone he ever had a conversation with because he would make comments that made everyone feel less of themselves.
There are people who cannot control being untactful, even if they might be good peopl. Being tactless comes from a lack of emotional intelligence, and a lack of awareness of the things you say and their impact on others. If this is you, then you should pay more attention to what you say. You need to challenge your limits, be more open-minded and think twice before saying something in a rush.
4. Organize your speech
A few weeks ago, I had a phone chat with a well-educated professional. During the conversation, he asked questions and responded to them himself. He constantly jumped from one topic to another without completing his sentences. I could not understand him.
There are people who are well read and educated but cannot put two words together in a sentence properly. It is due to their way of thinking. They think chaotically. The solution is to slow down while speaking. By making pauses once in a while and breathing slowly, you can have a brief break to organize your speech. I find it quite helpful myself, because while talking fast without stopping, we may not be able to hear and analyze the words coming out of our mouths.
5. Learn to listen
People love attention no matter how much they deny it. Imagine a conversation where you are interrupted by the person you are talking to. You wouldn’t like it, would you? Speaking properly is important, but listening properly is equally important. Effective communication is not possible without good listening.
Listening with attention shows your respect towards the other person. Moreover, you might be able to sense what they really want to say and respond accordingly. Thus, you will be able to build the right connection. Who would not want to talk to you after that? You might be an all-knowing snob with amazing speaking skills but if you speak without listening to others, do not be surprised when people start avoiding you.
6. Be positive
Back when I was a teenager, I had a friend who was always negative. After some time it bored and devastated me, so much that I decided to break the ties. Every day we face stressful situations, traffic jams, occupational stress and family issues. If we all fixate on those issues, we will all be devastated by negativity.
Positive people, on the other hand, attract everyone around them and make them feel better about themselves. Communication coach Julian Treasure says in his TED speech that negativity is hard to tolerate after a while, and that positivity is what makes communication interesting.
Becoming better at conversations might not be the easiest task, but if you work on these tips, it will surely pay off.