Before talking to someone it is important to first know what the goal, purpose, or subject of the conversation is. Is it to just greet and just say hello or do you want to convey some information or instructions, get an answer to a question, discuss a topic, get to better know a human, get someone to help you with a task, or just make idle chit chat.

If the conversation is designed to sell something, to persuade someone, or to discuss job performance then this requires specialized skill sets not covered here. Public speaking is a one way conversation which is a skill we will not cover here.

A conversation may last longer than the goal that you had in mind but you should do your best to complete the goal of the conversation before you delve into other subject or topic areas if the need or impulse arises. Try to be brief and to the point before you get sidetracked which can happen occasionally.

Body language is important and you should not cross your arms or stare intently during a long conversation. Eye contact is more important during a short conversation and smiling always helps but you can deflect your eyes quite often during a long conversation.

Word fillers can be just as annoying as long pauses so try to avoid repeating useless words such as “um”, “like”, and “you know” throughout the conversation.

Really listen to the response and you will better be able to judge whether you were misunderstood, whether the human was upset or delighted by your question or statement, or whether the human is offering an opinion or fact which can be used as a follow up question or a reason to continue the flow of the conversation. If you really listen more than you talk then you may be surprised by what you can learn and you will be respected more since you will be showing a sincere interest in the talker.

It is ok to interrupt if the human is getting off subject or is delving into boring trivia. You can interrupt and can change the subject or postpone the discussion to a later date or time. Some interruptions can be rude such as the distractions of a cell phone, others entering the conversation unannounced, and trying to multitask.

A lengthy conversation is usually a two way street or a mutual conversation and empathy is sometimes very important. To demonstrate sincere empathetic engagement you can repeat another’s word, phrase, or sentence and use this as a source for follow up questions which keep the conversation going. Using words such as “I know how you feel”, “That happened to me too”, “I feel your excitement or pain”, and “My feeling exactly” will make a human feel that they are saying something important or interesting and that you care about them.

If there is time then you can tell a story or relate a personal experience which fits the topic of the conversation and gets the point across so do this. Many humans like stories with a point and personal experiences or examples from real life which inform or demonstrate a principle.

Sometimes conversations can erupt into arguments, especially when opinions or beliefs conflict or a human feels that they have been offended, so try to remain in discussion mode and apologize if you hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally. Sometimes agree to disagree to get the conversation out of confrontation mode.

If you have integrity or are honest and moral, are trustworthy, sincere, dependable, friendly, and competent with some empathy then humans will respect you and even admire you. They will be more interested in what you have to say.

In a nutshell to have a good conversation, listen more than you speak, ask follow up questions, stick to topics of mutual interest, and be empathetic where appropriate.

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