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What Makes a Good Conversationalist

What Makes a Good Conversationalist

Transforming yourself into a great conversationalist could make a huge difference to your life. Great talkers, who interest and entertain others, tend to have more friends and more successful relationships. Even your success at work can depend on your ability to interest and hold the attention of others. Of course, we cannot all captivate a dinner party like Oscar Wilde, but we can make an effort to listen, to be positive and to take an interest in people.

In conversation, many people become one of three conversational types. First, there is the interrogator. An interrogator is someone who, in conversation, behaves in a far too personal and intense manner, asking personal or embarrassing questions and making others feel uncomfortable. Second is the monopoliser. The monopoliser believes herself to be the most interesting person in the room. She interrupts and talks over others, giving the impression that she is listening to herself and enjoying it very much. Then you have the braggart. For the braggart the sole purpose of a conversation is to boost his own self-esteem. He will hijack a conversation and use it as a platform from which to list his accomplishments. He sees those he is conversing with as competitors and as people he must outdo. If you have a motorbike, the braggart will have a car. If you have been to a wonderful local ski resort, the braggart has been to Switzerland and will be pleased to tell you that it is far superior. Everyone has met one of these types, indeed many of us have been one of these types at some point. All share one failing in common: they make the people they are speaking to feel worse. The interrogator makes people feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. The monopoliser makes people angry or irritable. The braggart, perhaps the most common of the three, makes people feel worse about themselves and their lives.

Perhaps the single most important quality all good conversationalists share is the ability to listen. But that does not mean nodding and staring vacantly over the shoulder of the person speaking. A good listener maintains eye contact and reacts to what is being said, perhaps by smiling or by nodding or by shaking their head. A good listener is also careful not to give the impression that they are waiting for the other person to finish speaking so that they can begin.

When speaking to others there are some general things worth keeping in mind. First, most people find life difficult. They do not wish to be reminded of the worst aspects of life, so avoid negative, depressing subjects like cancer or old age. People much prefer those who speak with cheerful enthusiasm about positive subjects, like their holiday or their new dog. Enthusiasm must not be confused with boasting however. When you speak of your holiday do not do so in a boastful manner. Do not speak to someone with little money about the expensive safari you are about to embark on.

A good conversationalist makes others feel better about themselves and about life generally. Self-deprecation is a very attractive quality and puts others at their ease. When you say something like "I made such a fool of myself" the other person immediately relaxes as they realize they do not need to compete with you. Of course, self-deprecation is not the same as self-loathing. Self-loathing makes others uncomfortable. But a willingness to reveal your vulnerabilities without self-pity is very attractive.

Finally, the golden rule in any conversation is to take an interest in the person to whom you are speaking. The surest way to please another person during a conversation is to find out their passions in life and talk to them about that. If you know someone loves horses, take a moment to ask them why. Ask them about the different types of horses or what it is like to ride in the country on a summer's day. Above all, consider the feelings of the people you engage with. Try to make people laugh and smile and feel better about themselves and about life.

Comments (1)

lukebrincat
applause Great Article Loved it! I admit I tend to be a mixture of all types. often I make a fool out of myself frustrated lool but I believe that at times I am a good conversationalist especially in 1 on 1 conversation... conversing I often tend to shy out a bit when having a group discussion... I still make an effort and say those few meaningful words... which most often is what people remember. yay

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