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16 Oct

We have all seen the smooth operators casually conversing with someone that they have never met before.  We wish we could command attention like that and communicate with ease.   Having the art and skills of good communication is essential in life and is not difficult to learn.  Holding interesting conversations with people is rewarding for both you and the other person.  You never know what great stories unfold if only you take the time to hold the conversation.

Good conversationalists create rapport that can result in lasting friendships as well as good business relationships.  People like dealing with people that are easy to talk to so let’s look at the 9 attributes of good conversationalists.

1. Be enthusiastic

Enthusiasm is contagious.  Showing interest and excitement in what you are doing and what is being said makes the other person equally interested.  Watching people talk about their passion in a sport, or a line of study or in a particular activity makes you feel like you want to do it as well.  Their faces are alive and expressive, their body movements emphasise their words, and they vary their vocal tones, cadence and modulations.  They paint pictures that our ears hear, our mind sees and our hearts believe, all through their passion, so if you want to make an impression be passionate when you speak about your subject.  Equally, be passionate when you listen to others.  Reflect your interest in their stories through your facial expression.  Your words and your responses should mirror their enthusiasm.  

2. Focus on others

Great talkers find out about their conversational partners.  They pick up on interests and passions and explore them by listening carefully.  People often have unusual jobs or hobbies or are deeply involved in something that has meaning in their lives but they are often shy about talking about it.  They often feel that people will not be interested so by asking them about it makes you also interesting to them.  Allow them to display their full passion and the conversation will flow. 

3. Humility

It never ceases to amaze me how people naturally respond positively to more humble people.  There is a clear difference between being confident and being self-opinionated or a know it all.  Understand the difference and use your confidence to initiate the conversation.  Limit your opinion unless it is asked for by the other person.  Balance your response by understanding that probably much of what we believe may be wrong and half of what we see may not be true.  Our minds confuse us in that we over value what we know and under value what we don’t know.  We can all be a bit more humble.

4. Be Curious

Being curious leads you to ask interesting questions and to find out more about others and life in general.  Curiosity fosters learning and provides you with a wealth of interesting subject matter.  It assists you to ask even more interesting questions.

5. See things differently

Interesting people I have met in my life were the ones that had a different view about a subject when compared with conventional wisdom.  To me they seemed to have thought more deeply and were more considered in all the aspects, implications and consequences.  It did not mean that they were right or wrong but rather that they brought a new and different dimension to the subject that was more enriching.  Look for differences and opposites.  One of the best ways to look at things differently is to take the position of all the different stakeholders in any issue and try to understand their point of view.  Understanding issues from different cultural perspectives is one of the easiest ways to start to look at things differently.  

6. Listen more

It is often glibly said but still relevant - we have one mouth and two ears and we should use them in the same proportion.  Good listeners are good conversationalists.  It also means you need to listen reflectively.  Women as a group are considered better listeners than men because you can see in their facial expressions, and in their body language that they are engaged in the conversation when they are doing all the listening.  The other person is aware of the connectedness during the conversation.  Men are traditionally more passive and, at times, give the impression of not listening at all.  The remedy is to be an active listener.  Engage the talker with your eyes, your facial expression and use reflective expressions which acknowledge that you understand what is being said.

7. Be authentic

It is almost impossible to be something you are not and yet people try.  The best thing in all areas of life is to be yourself and especially when you are conversing with others.  People see through phonies and you will be seen to be one if you try adopting another person’s style and mannerisms.  It is difficult to keep up and more difficult to consistently carryout.  Genuine people seem comfortable and relaxed with who they are and how they go about their lives.  Be the person you normally are with friends and others you trust. You will come across as an authentic person and people will, in turn, feel more comfortable with you.

8. Be widely read 

Having a broad interest in life and what is going on in the world makes a great basis for finding interesting subjects to talk about with people you meet for the first time.  It also, and more importantly, contributes to the discussion when people are telling you of their interests or experiences.  The best way I know is to read a lot about different subjects and areas of interest.  Each day try to read something in a magazine or paper or electronic blog that you would not have otherwise read.  Don’t judge, just take in the information and try to use it by striking up a conversation at the next opportunity.  The most interesting people often seem to have eclectic views. 

9. Integrity

I was once in the company of a person who told me one story after another about he got the better of his company, his business partner and his life partner. In each story he seemed to want to demonstrate how smart and wily he was in creating some form of advantage.  The sad part was that all he did was show me that he was dishonest in his dealings with people.  Needless to say when I investigated further about this person, people did not want to do business with him nor did they want to listen to his stories. Each of us wants to be dealt with fairly and honestly and each story you listen to or tell others has a hidden message of integrity of the story teller.  Tell the stories and have the conversation that meets your highest standards.