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Conversation Skills – Part One
Some people say conversation is a dying art as we spend so much time looking at screens and because the growth of social media is about broadcasting ‘me, me, me’.
Conversation is simply talking to someone, usually informally. It should be enjoyable and fulfilling. Do you want to remove shyness and be the charming authentic you? You can. Conversation skills can be learnt.
Conversation is the balance between listening and talking for all those participating. It is not a conversation if one person is hogging all the time with their monologue. Practise the following skills and seriously consider the additional tips to improve your conversations.
Signal your intent to share the conversation:
What is your occupation?
What do you do at weekends?
What are you interested in?
Isn’t the weather beautiful this week?
I love the gardens here, do you?
Remember the acronym FORM for starting a conversation or continuing one. F is for family, O is for occupation, R is for recreation and M is for mutual interest. Use this acronym to base your questions. If you quickly show interest in the other person, they are more likely to relax and ‘open up’.
Be friendly and polite
Smile, be pleasant while building rapport (refer to previous blog titled, Building Rapport). Keep the conversation enjoyable. Avoid talking about other people in a derogative manner. Keep any contentious topics for discussion until you know the person a little better.
.Respond to what they are saying
Your listening skills come into play so you can respond in an effective manner. Focus on the other person and what they are saying. Observe their body language. Don’t be thinking about what you are going to say next.
Have an open confident body language
Smile, stand upright with your head up, make good eye contact and have your hands relaxed. If sitting, maintain a good posture with your relaxed hands seen by the other person. This body language shows you are self-assured, open and approachable.
Assisting the other person
A flowing conversation moves from one person to another with ease.
Sometimes one or both people find it difficult to talk and you may need to encourage them to speak. By asking a question, they will reply. Use an open question which invites them to share some information. Open questions often start with What, Why, How. A closed question requiring a Yes or No answer, only invites them to say one of these words, nod or shake their head.
Create emotional connections
A conversation which stays on the small talk is less likely to build a greater connection. The next step is to share some knowledge of yourself (self -disclosure). This means letting them know about you through sharing your feelings, opinions and facts. This encourages the other person to do the same. Without this step the friendship will fizzle out.
In the early stages of self-disclosure, the topic doesn’t have to be very personal. It can be something like, “Yesterday was a gorgeous day and so I took my dog for a longer walk.” This comment invites the other person to ask about the dog or where you walked.
Be interested so you will be interesting
If you are interested in others and the world around you then you will be interesting to talk to. Be enthusiastic about life and the energy will rub off on others.