My dad always says, it’s important to communicate with people, and it even more important to be a good listener.
Can you improve your conversation skills? Certainly. It might take a while to change the conversation habits that’s been ingrained throughout your life, but it is possible. Here are some common mistakes many of us have made in conversations and a couple of solutions to help improve your social skills.
Ernest Hemingway said: “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” Don’t be like most people. Don’t just wait eagerly for your turn to talk. Learn to really listen to what people are saying. When you start to listen, you’ll pick up on loads of potential paths in the conversation. But avoid yes or no type of questions as they will not give you much information. When you ask the right question, the person will delve deeper into the subject giving you more information to work with and more paths for you to choose from. And as they start to open up, the conversation becomes more interesting.
Asking too many questions
If you ask too many
questions the conversation can feel like a bit of an interrogation. Or like you
don’t have that much to contribute. One alternative is to mix questions with
and then the conversation can flow on from there and it
can help you to have good discussions.
When in conversation with
someone you just meet or when the usual few topics are exhausted an awkward silence
or mood might appear. Or you might just become nervous. If you’re running out
of things to say, you can always start talking about the current news, or like
what happened on the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Comment on the aquarium at the party, or the host’s playlist.
You can always start new conversations about something in your surroundings.
If you feel nervous or weird when meeting someone for the first time assume rapport. What that means is that you imagine how you feel when you meet one of your best friends. And pretend that this new acquaintance is one of your best friends. Don’t overdo it though, you might not want to hug and kiss right away. But if you imagine this you’ll go into a positive emotional state. And you’ll start talking to this new person with a relaxed attitude because that’s how you talk to your friends. It might sound a bit loopy or too simple, but it really works.
One of the most important things in a conversation is not what you say, but how you say it. A change in these habits can make a big difference since your voice and body language is a vital part of communication. Here are some tips:
1. Slowing down: When you get excited about something it’s easy to start talking faster and faster. Try and slow down. It will make it much easier for people to listen and for you to actually get what you are saying across to them.
2. Speaking up: Don’t be afraid to talk as loud as you need to for people to hear you.
3. Speaking clearly: Don’t mumble.
4. Speak with emotions: No one listens for that long if you speak with a monotone voice. Let your feelings be reflected in your voice.
5. Using pauses: Slowing down your talking plus adding a small pause between thoughts or sentences creates a bit of tension and anticipation. People will start to listen more attentively to what you’re saying.
Hogging the spot-light
Everyone involved in a conversation should get their time in the spotlight. Don’t interrupt someone when they are telling their view on what you are discussing to divert the attention back to yourself. Find a balance between listening and talking.
Having to be right
Avoid arguing and having to being right about every topic. Often a conversation is not really a discussion. It’s a more of a way to keep a good mood going. No one will be that impressed if you “win” every conversation. Instead just sit back, relax and help keep the good feelings going.
Talking about a weird or negative topic
if you’re at a party or somewhere where you are just getting to know some people you should avoid some topics. Talking about your bad health or relationships, your crappy job or boss, serial killers, technical lingo that only you and some other guy understands or anything that will suck the positive energy out of the conversation. You might also want to save religion and politics for conversations with your friends.
Always be prepared to drop a subject when you start to bore people, or when everyone is getting bored and the topic is starting to run out of steam. Don’t start to whine about your boss or your job; people don’t want to hear that. Instead, talk about your last trip somewhere, some funny anecdote that happened while you were buying clothes or something funny or exciting. Knowing a little about many things or at least being open to talk about them instead of trying to steer the conversation back to your favourite subject is a nice quality. Opening up a bit and not clinging desperately to one topic will make the conversation feel more relaxed and open. You will come across like a person who can talk about many things with ease. As you’ve probably experienced with other people; this quality is something you appreciate in a conversation and makes you feel like you can connect to that person easily.
Open up and say what you think, share how you feel. If someone shares an experience, open up too and share one of your own. Don’t just stand there nodding and answer with short sentences. If someone is investing in the conversation they’d like you to invest too. When needed, be the first one to open up and invest in the conversation.
Not contributing much
You might feel that you don’t have much to contribute to a conversation, but try anyway. Listen, and ask questions. Make relating statements. Develop your observational skills to pick up interesting stuff in your surroundings to talk about. Develop your personal knowledge-bank by expanding your view of interesting things in the world. Work on your body language, how you talk and try assuming rapport to improve your communication skills.
But take it easy. Don’t do it all at once. You’ll just feel confused and overwhelmed. Instead, pick out the three most important things that you feel needs improving. Work on them every day, notice the difference and keep at it. Soon your new habits will start to pop up spontaneously when you are in a conversation. Happy conversing!