No matter what path you take in life, you need to learn how to have meaningful, valuable conversations with people. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, it’s not likely you can avoid conversing with others, even if it’s not a strong skill of yours.
Improving your conversational skills can boost your career, increase your networking contacts, and improve every area of your life. It builds stronger bonds with others and therefore opens you up to more opportunities.
Whether you want to improve your conversational skills with customers, friends, or complete strangers, here are four tips to help you get started.
Express genuine interest
One of the best aspects of any conversation is being able to exchange thoughts and ideas. Learning about someone through their ideals and values helps you better understand and communicate with them. It’s fun to play around with different topics and get to know someone as you ask each other questions and dig deeper.
However, it’s difficult for anyone to hold a conversation when either party shows disinterest. It’s rude and makes others feel like what they say doesn’t matter to you. The proper etiquette of engaging with others includes expressing enthusiasm and being mentally present the entire time. If you find that your mind wanders frequently, it might be time to hit up someone else.
When you talk to someone, especially about something personal going on in your life, it’s important to feel safe and secure. The second we feel misunderstood, we’re quick to build our walls up and hesitate to break them down. You wouldn’t want to do that to someone else.
When someone trusts you, especially with a private matter, it’s crucial to withhold your judgments and keep an open mind. Imagine telling someone about your new online store or going back to school, topics that could be vulnerable to talk about, only to receive judgment. It’s not likely you’ll confide in that person again. Practice compassion and empathy when you speak with others as you’d want them to do the same for you.
Ask meaningful questions
We’ve all had the misfortune of having a conversation with someone who only spoke about themself and didn’t bother to inquire about your life. It happens more often than you think and is one of the easiest ways to turn people off to conversing with you again. While it may be a sign of nervousness, it can also be the sign of a narcissist who loves the conversation to be only about them.
To create back-and-forth engagement, ask meaningful questions that will help you get to know the other person better. Learn about what goals they’re after, what means the most to them, what motivates them to do better, etc. Think about questions you’d like someone to ask you and bring those to the conversation.
Asking questions shows you have a genuine interest in the other person and creates a trustworthy space for both parties to be honest. You can start off with more trivial topics as you get to know them and work your way up to more vulnerable subjects.
Listen to understand
If you’re only looking to argue, it’s a surefire way to turn people off from continuing a conversation and starting a new one in the future. People want to engage with those who make them feel comfortable. It’s natural to seek out conversations that make you feel good, but if you only listen to argue, you’re creating unnecessary tension.
During your next conversation, pay attention to where your mind goes when someone says something you disagree with. It’s normal to disagree with others, even those who are close to you, but it’s important to respect their opinions.
Around 95 percent of people in the U.S. alone own a smartphone, so it’s understandable to use it when you need to. However, it’s important to leave it tucked away during a conversation and give the other person your undivided attention. It’s rude to scroll through your apps when another person talks to you.
Listen to understand where the other party is coming from and why they think the way they do. Different life experiences create different types of people, and it’s this diversity that makes the world go round. Learn to embrace varying points of view by stepping into someone else’s shoes.
Getting better at your conversational skills, like anything else, takes practice. The more people you talk to, the easier it’ll be to learn how to hold a conversation that keeps going. It’s important not to be judgmental, understand the other person, and inquire about their life. As long as you’re respectful, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to excel at being a skilled conversationalist.