For some people, talking to others comes naturally. But not everyone who is good at talking to others is good at the art of conversation. To become a truly good conversationalist, you have to work at it. This is no different than many of the other self-improvement and self-help tips we’ve written about on the site.
If you have been fortunate enough to be on the other side of a conversation with a good conversationalist, you’ll probably have noticed how easy it felt to talk to them. More than that, you will probably have noticed that glorious feeling of being heard.
Not everyone who talks is good at conversation, and to become a truly good conversationalist, you have to work at it.
It’s quite ironic frankly that the mark of a strong conversationalist has less to do with how much they talk and more to do with how well they listen. But, just think about the last great conversation you had. More than likely it was one where you felt like you could contribute and that the other person was genuinely interested in what you had to say. Chances are that the other person felt that way too. To understand why, I want to introduce the conversation as a dance metaphor. This concept will help those looking for self-improvement and self-help tips on becoming better conversationalists.
“Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals.” L. J. Isham
You may think of a conversation as a dance. Two people alternating between one moving forward and the other moving back. After enough repetitions the discrete movements merge together so seamlessly that you might miss the moment that individual moves become a performance.
“The most basic of all human needs is to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” Ralph Nichols
The best conversationalists know when to step up and when to step back. They even know when to pause and to allow you to catch your breath. They know how to make it look and feel easy.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey
Now staying with the dance metaphor, a dance does not work if there are two soloists. A dance works because the participants agree to share the limelight. The same is true for conversation. You must agree to share the limelight in conversation by listening deeply to others.
There are a number of reasons why becoming a better listener will make you a better conversationalist. For starters, you’ll build deeper connections, you’ll be better able to make connections with what others are saying and you’ll be more likely to remember what they say. But the reason that is most important to me is that it makes others feel good! That, to me, is reason enough.
A dance works because the participants agree to share the limelight. The same is true for conversation. You must agree to share the limelight in conversation by listening deeply to others.
So in closing, I’ll offer the full Dale Carnegie quote: “If you want to be a good conversationalist, be a good listener. To be interesting, be interested.”
Thank you for reading. Practice your conversation skills by setting up some time with me 🙂