Many people wish they could interact more socially and be better conversationalists. Whether you are an extrovert or introvert, shy or outgoing, there is one secret that you can use to be a better conversationalist in just about any situation:
Just be quiet and listen.
Seriously, that’s it.
Too often we think that talking makes us more social and that we have to be interesting. But really being a good conversationalist isn’t about being interesting, it’s being INTERESTED.
Dale Carnegie’s Secret
Dale Carnegie in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People mentions a time when he met a botanist at a party. He showed true interest in the botanist and asked a few questions, and the botanist talked to him for hours with Carnegie hardly saying a word. At the end of the night, the botanist was telling the host of the party how great a conversationalist Carnegie was – and he hardly said a word! He just listened.
Your job is to ask questions and get them to talk. Dig deeper into their stories. If you do this, just as with Dale Carnegie, people will consider you a great conversationalist.
What questions do you ask to get conversations going and to continue them?
There are books, such as Debra Fine’s The Fine Art of Small Talk, that have lots of tips and questions you could use (and you may even find these books at your local library!).
You can also search Google or Bing or such for phrases such as “conversation starters” or “conversation questions”.
Just write a few down on a notecard, in case you forget, and take it with you. And whenever you go somewhere where there may be people – have some questions ready.
When people are telling a story or experience, you can say things like “Tell me more” or ask specific questions about their story to dig deeper.
There’s also the acronym FORM – Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Motivation. You can use this acronym to help remember questions and topics to ask about. To learn more about FORM (and general conversation tips), check out this humorous video by The Art of Manliness (The FORM part starts at about 5:45):
You Don’t Have to be Completely Mum
Of course, there are times when you can and should talk. We are not saying to never talk and always listen, but when you put the main emphasis on other people, they generally appreciate that attention.
As you prepare questions when you go somewhere, you can also think about the events of your week or recent news or interests, and topics or stories you might talk about when asked. Being observant wherever the conversation is happening can also help you think of topics to talk about and questions to ask.
However, when it’s your turn to talk, don’t hog the attention, tell your story or information, then turn the focus back on other people.
Remember, the power isn’t in the talking, it’s in the listening.