Be honest, do you struggle to keep a conversation going? Do you feel anxious? Are you constantly doubting yourself and questioning the other person’s interest? Do you find yourself quiet and unable to say the words you’re thinking? If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, you’re not alone.
Conversation is an interactive communication that is a skill. Even though it may seem like some people are naturals, they’re not. They’ve worked on the development of their conversational skills and perfected the etiquette of socialization.
There are three simple steps to great conversation; however, before you can engage in healthy conversations you must outline your approach and have a positive mindset. Here’s how you do that:
- Give your conversation purpose. It doesn’t have to be super deep, but it should have meaning.
- Make a good first impression. Remember your actions speak louder than your words.
- Conversation openers are not silly – try one. The more you utilize these tools, the easier the entire process will be.
- Be proactive and find sparks. This will help the other person feel appreciated and involved in the conversation.
- Make a lasting impression. It’s just as important as the first impression.
Okay, now that you’ve laid out the groundwork, you’re ready to engage in the conversation. For that, you’ll need these three steps:
Author and professor, Brene Brown is the queen of all things vulnerability. She says, “Vulnerability is not willing or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” People appreciate honesty and the willingness to be open and transparent. Being vulnerable helps the other person understand the real you, without any guards or alternative motives. Moreover, it lets the person inside your life and reflects how you value them.
By being a vulnerable being, you’re subconsciously beginning your relationship with trust. Instead of listing caveats and benchmarks, you’re laying it all out there and revealing your depth to the other person. One of the biggest misconceptions about vulnerability, is the preconceived notion that you must disclose your entire life story. That’s simply not true. Being vulnerable is being you and allowing someone else to understand why you are the way you are. Think of it as sharing a story and not sugar coating anything.
Be an Active Listener
Active listening is a technique that is used in counseling, training, and solving disputes or conflicts. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and remember what is being said. Other listening techniques are reflective listening and emphatic listening.
Being an active listener shows the other participant, in the conversation, that you care about what they have to say. By listening actively you’re building trust and establishing a rapport and demonstrating concern. Some of the basic listening techniques are paraphrasing what is said to show you understand, use nonverbal cues such as nodding, eye contact, and leaning forward, and utilizing verbal affirmations. Some examples of affirmations are “I see you,” “I know,” “Sure,” “Thank you,” or “I understand.”
It’s important, in any relationship, to not be one sided and active listening is one way you can build a healthy relationship. If you’re interested in learning more about active listening and conversation check out: The Fine Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine and Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown.
Be Sincere and Authentic
All people want to feel valued and worthy. That’s the whole point of conversations, right? Conversations are meant to be a bridge between people. By talking to each other, individuals have the opportunity to learn about the other individual and how they can be a part of their life – friend or significant other. No one wants to engage in conversation that is fake or not genuine. Everyone’s time is valuable.
Avoid gossip and look for common ground, when you’re talking. Try to discover common interests and ways you can connect with the person. Ask questions that dig into learning more about the individual and don’t just scratch the surface. Ultimately, it’s important to be willing to invest the time it takes to get to know someone.
Conversation is a crucial part of communication. And communication is a work of art. Initially, it’s not something that is simply done with ease. Good conversing takes a lot of practice. Sometimes, depending on the people and your mood, communicating will feel easier and other times it will be challenging. However, if you use the three simple steps, we discussed you’ll continue to grow as a conversationalist.
If all else fails and you need an ice breaker, to ease awkward silence or an uncomfortable moment, here are a few facts you can use to spark an interesting conversation.
- Do you know, the man who created the Nobel Prize also invented dynamite? In 1867, Alfred Nobel received U.S. patent number 78,317 for his invention of dynamite. In 1888, a French newspaper wrongfully reported that Alfred had died. The article celebrated his death and referred to him as the “merchant of death”. However, it was Alfred’s brother who passed away. After the false alarm, Alfred made it his life mission to become a philanthropist and change the course of his career. Thus, he created the Nobel Prize.
- After the success of Beetlejuice, a sequel called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian was written in 1990, but the film was never made.
- When we go to sleep, we lose our sense of smell.
- Before rubber was used, pieces of bread were used to erase pencil markings.
- Did you know it is illegal to drive in a dirty car in Russia?
- Do you know which country is the only country that does not have a square or rectangular flag? It’s Nepal. Their flag resembles the shape of the letter B – or two triangles stuck together.
It's never too late to work on your communication skills, and by doing so you will notice how easy it is for you to flow through different conversations effortlessly. Being able to effectively communicate and have great conversations will improve the way you operate through life as well as the relationships you have with others.