Over the weekend, my wife asked me a sudden and seemingly simple question. “How does one talk to people and make a good conversation?”
My answer was spontaneous almost as if it was a programmed – “Simple, Just be an active Listener?”
She repeated her question again, this time with a slightly stern voice – “I asked on how one does talk to people, not how one listens?”
This conversation is indeed critical and I wanted to share this particular topic on this blog.
The art of a good conversation centers squarely on one’s ability to ask questions and to listen attentively to the answers. While it might be true that you talk about your views, insights, ideas, and opinions the real art of talking is in listening.
Perfecting the art of listening is by asking relevant, well-worded questions that guides the conversation and gives other people an opportunity to express themselves. They reveal their emotions, illustrate their views and share their opinions. Each of these is super important if you want to build on the conversation.
There are simple four steps that anybody can follow. Practice diligently and you will be the most admired conversationalist in a few weeks.
- Ask Open Ended Questions: Ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Open-ended questions encourage the speaker to expand on his thoughts and comments. E.g.: “How are you feeling today?”, “What do you think of …..” And one question will lead to another. You can ask open-ended questions almost endlessly, drawing out of the other person everything that he or she has to say on a particular subject.
- Listen Actively: In order to be an excellent conversationalist, you must resist the urge to control the discussion. The very best conversationalists, as any salesman would tell you are low-key, easy-going, cheerful, and genuinely interested in the other person. They seem to be quite content to listen when other people are talking and they make their own contributions to the dialogue rather short and to the point.
- Share Airtime: In fact, in a good conversation ideas and thoughts both-ways smoothly like a flow of water. Whether it is one-one, one-many, the conversation should shift back and forth, with each person getting an opportunity to talk. Conversation in this sense is like a ball that is tossed from person to person, with no one holding on to it for very long. If you feel that you have been talking for too long, you should stop and ask a question of someone in the group. You will be tossing the conversational ball and giving that individual an opportunity to converse.
- Learn to Listen Well: Listening is the most important of all skills for successful conversation. Many people are very poor listeners. Since everyone enjoys talking, it takes a real effort to practice the fundamentals of excellent listening and to make them a habit.
- Practice, Practice, Practice.