Mom always said: Be interestED, and interestING. This is the key to great conversations. So how many bad conversations are you involved in every day, every week? How many of them are bad because of you? It’s a touchy subject, I know…most of us like to think we are the epitome of charm and wit, dazzling others with our conversational skills. Unfortunately, current evidence will point to the contrary. I read an article the other day that said this next generation of kids will be almost unable to write an essay in school, much less hold an impromptu conversation with a stranger…the culprit, the article asserts, is technology. Texting, video games, our preocupation with digital communication is obliterating our ability to communicate the old-fashioned way. And that, my friends, is a shame.
So I have put together a list of 5 things you absolutely need to be a great conversationalist. I rarely if ever find myself in an un-worthwhile conversation. So, I figured Mom must have been on to something. Here goes:
5) Get your rest! I know a man who has been credited with being an amazingly fun and interesting guy, and alternately charged with having the personality of a folding chair. I know that he is completely fun and interesting, and I know why he can sometimes come across as dead to the world. It all has to do with his mood, and the amount of sleep he’s gotten. Being rested means the difference sometimes between caring and not caring about whatever situation you find yourself in. And to be a great conversationalist, you need to have the energy to make an effort. Simple as that.
4) Be interested in the world. The most interesting people I’ve met know a little bit about everything. They don’t walk into a room and start spouting trivia, but they can respond inteligently to almost any question they’re asked, whether they have direct knowledge of a topic or know someone who does…even if they’ve read something about it and can understand the topic being discussed. We are all grown-ups here, living in the world. It’s important to know the world you’re living in.
3) Be inclusive, never exclusive. I mean this in a different way than you may think. Yes, drawing people into a conversation and not being cliquey is very important, but it’s more than that. Be very careful to never, ever shut people down. Have you seen the youtube video on Joaquin Phoenix on Letterman? Consider that an excellent example of being exclusive. It is not acceptible in a social setting to exist in your own little world. When in conversation with one person or in a group, you are expected to make eye contact with each person, to respond appropriately to what is being said, and to keep the conversation going as long as it is appropriate to do so. So the answer to any question, any idea or any assertion, is never “No”. If you must answer in the negative, always end in the positive; “no, I’m not familiar with that artist…would I have seen any of his work around here?” is a much better answer than “no.”, which is unforgiveably rude to someone trying to engage you in conversation.
2) Remember that you are never the most interesting person there. Even if you know beyond a doubt that you are, pretend you’re not. Because the minute you start talking about yourself more than 30% of the whole conversation…you have just become boring. Think about the people you’ve spoken with recently who have mainly talked about themselves. Unnatractive, isn’t it? Don’t do it.
1) Be genuinely interested in who you’re talking to. If you remember nothing else, remember this: no matter who you are or where you go, people are drawn to people who like them. So if you enter a social situation genuinely interested and ready to like whoever you meet, you will always be successful. This involves making eye contact with the person who is speaking, asking questions like “what do you think about that?” or “how do you like that?”…I even sometimes ask complete strangers what he or she did that day. It seems an odd question from someone you don’t know, but think about how interested that person feels I am in them by the end of the conversation. If you are interested in and decide to genuinely like the person you’re speaking with, you will automatically make the effort to make him or her feel comfortable. And there is nothing more charming than that.