Communicating with people, understanding social cues, or being the life of the party all boil down to one thing: being able to start a conversation and finish it on a high note.
Great conversationalists are charismatic speakers who are able to start a topic about anything. Like most things in life, becoming one requires you to put in the time and effort necessary to progress and succeed.
Some of the biggest setbacks that people face when learning how to converse with others are feeling shy, their inability to maintain the conversation, and their awkward body language.
We’re going to zoom in on the essential skills that you can develop to overcome these issues and more. Let’s start.
1. Learn Active Listening:
This is a key skill that will come up a lot when discussing the most vital soft skills that are needed to function in the world today.
Listening is something many people claim to do but are not doing it correctly. When you first start out, it can be difficult to shut off the inner voice in your head telling you to speak more than the other person in front of you.
That’s a common mistake people make, and it’s one that can be fixed by making a conscious effort to listen without interrupting the other person.
Taken to the extreme, bad listening habits include listening to people around you while there are a lot of distractions and interruptions. Don’t do it.
Always aim to start a conversation with people in a calm environment where you can give it your full focus. People notice that, and soon enough, you’ll be doing what’s known as “active” listening. You’ll find out more about the person or group you’re with, and it’ll be easy to continue the conversation afterward.
Why does this work? It’s simple. People love talking about themselves, and they love it even more when the person in front of them is listening closely and engaging with them.
Furthermore, listening is the perfect remedy for people who are still socially conscious about starting conversations. For starters, you can practise listening at home with your own family.
Then, you can take that to the workplace, school, university, or even the bus stop.
Months later, you’ll be surprised at how many friends you have made and the powerful impression you left on them.
People will begin calling you the best conversationalist ever, even though you’ve really done nothing but listen to them for the most part.
2. Correct Your Body Language:
A very overlooked aspect when learning how to converse with others is how you tend to appear. In other words, your body language is just as important as your personality and listening skills.
There’s a lot of debate about what constitutes good body language, and there are even people who claim that you can get by with an awkward posture if you’re charming enough.
However, that makes things more difficult than they should be. What you should strive for is correcting your body language and maintaining a posture that keeps people interested in what you have to say.
Here’s a quick breakdown of all the things related to proper body language:
- Avoid Slouching: This happens when you let your upper body and shoulders relax too much. Slouching is a sign that you’re boring/bored, don’t have anything worth saying, or you’re out of shape.
- Stay Upright: What you should aim for is a posture where your head is held high, and your chest is puffed out or at least where you don’t cave your chest in.
- Maintain Eye Contact: People respond best to someone who is not shy about looking at them. Obviously, you can go overboard with this and scare people off, but your common sense should dictate when you’re making too much eye contact or too little.
- Stay Active: Try and make small body movements while speaking. It makes people feel at ease and assures them you’re still with them. Simple hand movements like gesturing or moving your hands up and down are enough. Other acceptable movements include nodding, flexible facial expressions, and laughing.
Of course, body language can be faked if your situation is bad enough, but that shouldn’t become your main strategy. Start small and work your way until you can do all the above automatically and with confidence. Your conversation skills will thank you for it.
3. Cultivate A Unique Personality:
When people think of someone great at conversations, they think of the typical loud extrovert who tends to dominate social interactions with his brash, carefree attitude.
Does that mean you should strive to become like that? Not necessarily. A personality that’s charming, stands out from the crowd, and makes people feel comfortable can help you talk with anyone.
The definition of that is really hard to pin down. The aloof, stoic, and witty introvert with the ability to make anyone laugh type of personality can be just as effective as his loud counterpart.
It’s all about how you sell yourself and how people perceive that. Some general rules to follow here include:
- Establishing trust by talking with people about what they like to talk about.
- Throwing in the occasional joke when appropriate and adding your personal charm to it.
- Mastering storytelling in a way that keeps people attracted to you.
- Learning diplomacy, or at least compromising when the need arises.
- Staying curious about the world and the people you interact with.
One more thing that deserves a whole bullet point of its own is positivity. Whether you like it or not, no one likes a downer. People want to be around someone who makes them feel happy and valued. Positive energy comes when you’re confident in yourself and the value you bring to conversations.
Negative people, barring the rare exceptions, are the opposite of all those things. By all means, you can be realistic without sounding like a pessimist or a depressed person; just don’t make it the highlight of your personality.
Again, there’s a whole spectrum of personalities out there, and it’s not practical to try and become like each one. Your instincts and life experience should guide you here. Like the above two points, your personality is subject to change, and you should not get fixated on imitating others, nor should you become a people-pleaser to get more friends.
People will notice that and walk away from the conversation feeling something is not right, and you yourself will be left unsatisfied with the whole interaction.
What you should do, however, is make sure that when you’re approaching someone, they’re not scared, weirded out, or intimidated by you. It’ll make life easier for you that way, and the vibe you give off will be the ice-breaker you need to make new friends, co-workers, or acquaintances.
Cultivating a personality that’s loved by everyone is impossible. Instead, your personality should be good enough to get you talking with people and establishing rapport with them. The happy medium is “fun,” and thankfully, being a fun person is very teachable.
No one likes to admit it, but most people are not good at starting a conversation. That’s ok. Hopefully, by now, you’ve got a good idea of what it takes to become a great conversationalist.
The holy trifecta of active listening, proper body language, and an authentic personality are all you need to get started here.
The rest is just daily practice. Learn to say hi to the shopkeepers around the neighbourhood and gradually up your social interactions until you’re able to talk to strangers about anything.
It’s really not magic. The skill can be yours, and you can become great at it if you stay mindful and consistent.