Talking is haaard. Now as a little disclaimer, I’m a decent conversationalist, but it’s not like I command attention like Mr.ChiCity3 or anything. Whether it’s a riveting message from someone that makes me feel something or a person that always seem to be good at making friends, people who command attention have always fascinated me. The interest is twofold: one; who doesn’t like listening to riveting conversation and two; how can I be more like that? Here are a couple things I’ve noticed from others who are good conversationalists.
- They’re Personal (but not too personal at first)
Alright, so this can be difficult as it’s very contextual. I’ll start with an example. In response to the “what’s going on with you?” a new friend started off with a story where a guy had sent her unprompted intimate photos so to speak. This launched into a discussion on the story behind this, dating in general, and onto other topics. Of course, I’m not advocating using a similar conversation for first meeting your boss, but if your audience fits, trying something on varying degrees of the personal side can lead to funny and/or meaningful conversation.
If you think about it, good conversations you have are generally centered on a personal story at some point. From TedTalks to YouTube videos, the narrator generally uses a personal story as an analogy to the theme of the account. These conversations tend to break the ice and make you feel like you know someone more than the time you’ve spent with them.
- They Do, Then Share, Then Ask
So in order to have a personal story, you have to do things worth telling! You don’t have to hike Mt. Everest or go through a near-death experience in order to have something to talk about though. Do things and then talk about them. For example, a couple days ago I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about where my life was headed. A neighbor invited me out for a bike ride to the library and even though I didn’t really feel like going, I decided I would. There, we found out about free guitar lessons and found a new quote there I really connected with – “We read to know we are not alone.” I of course didn’t go on this little venture to have a story to tell, but it’s a little tidbit I shared with someone in the context of putting yourself out there even when you don’t feel like it.
However, I feel like the sole narrative these days of good conversationalists is “listen and ask a lot of questions about someone else’s story.” I actually disagree that this is the best thing to do in order to have a memorable discussion. Of course, asking questions is important in order to have an actual conversation instead of a monologue, but listening without contributing only makes you good at listening! Think about it. I’m sure some of the most notable conversations you had were of someone sharing something with you. Now think about what that person’s most notable conversations are. Are they more likely to be the story they shared with you or the one someone else shared with them? So go ahead and be doer and sharer. Try your best to live an active life (whether if it’s cycling or gaming) and think of ways to relate it to a conversation.
After you do and share, you then have to follow up by asking. This part should be easier as I think we as a society have taken a lot of the advice about listening and asking questions about other people’s stories (for the most part anyway…). But don’t forget to share and then follow up on your stories. In my biking example above, I could ask someone “Have you ever had a story like that where you pushed yourself to do something and it worked out for the better?”
- They’re Engrossed in Their Own Current Conversations
Good conversationalists can create an engrossing dialogue with almost anyone. It’s almost as if they bring other’s stories to the surface with their direction. So even if you are having a “boring” conversation, challenge yourself to stay. Sometimes, this is difficult for me – especially in a setting with a couple other people talking around me. If the conversation I’m having isn’t interesting enough, I might move on elsewhere. Of course, you or I don’t have to stay all the time for boring conversations. Also, no matter how hard you try, some people aren’t really interested in even having one anyway. But other times, you just need to need to concentrate on your current conversation to nurture it instead of trying to plan your in into another one. Use some of the other tips provided in order to try and revive your conversation and be the discussion that other people are trying to engage in.
Things to Keep in Mind.
Just because you’re not a riveting conversationalist (yet) doesn’t mean you don’t have stories that aren’t worth listening to. It can be hard to believe this, but it’s true. There is someone out there who cares about what you have to say and just one person who cares can mean the world.
How do you feel about your conversational abilities? Any luck on improving your skills? What helped in improving them?