Updated: May 5
The art of conversation is a necessary skill in life, from the schoolyard to the conference room, and in just about every conceivable step of your career path. Conversations introduce us to the people who will become our mentors, coworkers, companions, and friends. As a result, there is great impetus to master conversation so that forming the foundation of these relationships is easier. But how can you go about improving this omnipresent yet often overlooked skill?
According to EssentialLifeSkills.net, conversation is one of the more spontaneous and less formal methods of communication. Fortunately, you do not have to be outgoing and hold the attention of a whole room to be a good conversationalist, nor do you need to be full of facts, stories, or advice. As we shall soon see, mastering the art of conversation requires little more than the desire to connect with others.
Be a Good Listener
Perhaps the most important skill within the art of conversation has nothing to do with speaking at all. A conversation where one person does all the talking isn’t a conversation: it’s a monologue. While having things to say and being interesting is all well and good, being a good listener and making others feel like you care about what they have to say is a vital skill both in the workplace and in life. In addition, it’s rather hard to learn anything when you’re the only one speaking! One of the best ways to be a listener, other than focusing on what the other person has to say, is to ask questions to further drive the discussion.
This applies to both speaking and listening. When your conversational partner is speaking, leaning in and showing signs of acknowledgement shows your partner that you’re interested and engaged in what they’re saying. On the other hand, if you get distracted while you’re speaking, or only answer questions with as few words as possible, you’re not giving the other person much to interact with. Avoid distractions like your cell phone or other devices. According to Experience Life by Life Time, looking at or checking your phone is one of the quickest ways to kill a conversation.
Remember when we said listening is more important than talking? That’s true, but you should also try to have something to contribute to the conversation. Provided you’re actively listening, it is highly likely that something your conversational partner says will give you a chance to chime in; if you find yourself deep in a topic of which you know little, ask leading questions until something you can relate to comes up. At worst, you’ll learn a few new things in the process.
Relax and Practice
When you’re having a conversation, you’re communicating more informally. As such, remember to stay relaxed and comfortable when conversing with others. If you’re tense or on edge, not only will this make it harder to communicate, you also might make your partner uncomfortable. Try taking a few deep breaths and slowing yourself down. Smiling at the other person and using humor can also be good strategies for this type of situation. Ultimately though, the art of conversation comes down to practice. Not only will you become more adept the more often you use this skill but you will also be more comfortable, helping you relax as well!
Clearly, the art of conversation is not only valuable but vital for success in today’s work world. Fortunately, anyone can master this art with a little work and some people to talk to! No matter where and when you end up in a conversation, don’t forget to enjoy yourself: you might make a new connection that you never would have expected. We know that by using these techniques and with consistent practice, you can leverage this skill and add it to your growing repertoire of workplace tools.