One thing which is not always obvious or mentioned is that conversations between family members and close friends is a little different than good conversations between mere acquaintances or strangers. Taboo subjects such as politics, sex, and religion are usually off limits when talking to acquaintances or strangers but are acceptable topics to discuss with close friends or relatives. Revealing your personal weaknesses, secrets, and biases to close trusted humans is more acceptable without as much fear that this information will be used against you to damage your reputation.
That said there are 23 ways to be a better conversationalist in general:
Be a good listener since it shows an interest in what another is saying and makes another feel more important than they actually are. Some feel a good conversation should be 50/50 or that each should share about half of the conversation time but when talking to acquaintances or strangers your goal should be to learn as much about that human as possible and that means letting him or her do most of the talking. Try to show genuine interest without pretentiousness by listening and reacting accordingly or appropriately.
Don’t pontificate or dogmatically try to force your opinions and/or ideas on another. This aggressive approach will put the listener in defensive mode and cause them to try and avoid or terminate the conversation prematurely.
Use purposeful open ended questions beginning with who, what, where, when, how, and use how much to get an accurate degree of emotion, feeling, time, effort, devotion, commitment, quality, and quantity. This is better than just asking general questions about emotions and feelings or questions with only yes or no answers, both of which don’t encourage lengthier and more informative answers which is what you ideally want. Examples are- What drives you in life? What are your goals for next year? What inspired you to make the change?
If you don’t know how to answer a question or are ignorant on a topic then admit that you don’t know what to say or say that you will have to research it or think about it some more.
Be relatively brief and to the point and don’t get overly involved in giving too many or lengthy details and explanations which may be unnecessary.
Don’t assume that your experience and feelings on a topic are identical to theirs since most of us have had different experiences and feelings on varied topics. No two humans think or feel alike except perhaps for some rare couples who have been living and interacting much together for over 50 years.
Try not to repeat yourself or rephrase the same response many times or you will come across as being a little pushy and even annoying.
Try not to interrupt another while they speak unless they are excessively repeating themselves, boring, or talking too much with a lot of trivial information which is wasting your time and listening energy.
Go with the flow or don’t be too critical of another’s conversation style.
Try to choose subjects of mutual interest if possible and ask appropriate questions which will identify those subjects to further discuss.
Try to stay optimistic or positive with a minimum display of pessimism or negativism.
With strangers and acquaintances try to avoid overly emotional topics such as politics, sex, religion, relationship status, socioeconomic status, and physical appearance.
Advocate or say what you think and why followed by asking- How do you see it? to get a reaction, input, or feedback from them. Use follow up questions to get more useful information out.
Say the right thing or be honest, sincere, generally truthful, and not hurtful or say nothing at all.
Try to avoid small talk or chit chatting as much as possible and try to focus on more important or big talk topics.
Stay in conversation or discussion mode and don’t argue or debate which is a confrontational style and will put another in an angry and defensive or rejection mode.
Respect another’s privacy and try to avoid being overly critical or judgmental.
Give credit where credit is due and compliment accordingly.
Respect a person’s strongly held opinion and/or idea and both agree to disagree and continue the conversation with another topic.
Look for visual facial and body cues to assess the degree of interest in the conversation and switch to a different topic or prepare to end the conversation if you detect great disinterest.
Use examples to illustrate a point which you want to make.
Don’t brag about yourself or talk too much about your accomplishments since con artists and pretentious individuals are notorious for excessively conceited self-promotion and are no longer respected when the truth surfaces sooner or later.
Finally don’t be untruthful, pretentious, or hurtful since it will cause others to dislike you in the long duration since almost no one likes lying, deceptive, rude, and offensive humans.
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