Be a Better Conversationalist

The past few years, I’ve slowly become more and more extroverted.

One factor leading to this was reading a book on how to be a better conversationalist. I thought it’d be helpful to share the best tips from the book.

Have a general guiding “goal” in mind when you speak to someone. This doesn’t mean you’re duplicitous or fake. It just means you are giving meaning to your conversation. When someone asks you “What do you like to do?” they aren’t just asking for information. They’re trying to make conversation, for one reason or another. And so should you! Maybe you want to get to know the person better. Maybe you want to find areas of common interest. Or maybe you want to persuade them to marry you. My goal lately has been to make people feel comfortable. If I’m speaking to someone who loves to gab, I try to give them the floor. If it’s someone who seems reluctant to speak, I try to find an appropriate topic for conversation.

No one is “out to get you.” It seems to be part of the human condition to be neurotic and assume people, even people you’ve just met, secretly have an issue with you – perhaps that is evolutionarily beneficial for survival. But that just isn’t true! People want you to feel included, and they want to like you.

Present yourself in a way that makes you feel confident. It’s amazing what a nice haircut and some stylish clothes will do to your own self-perception.

You don’t have to please everyone. If you meet someone new at a party and you don’t “click,” that’s fine. Just talk to someone else.

I came up with this next one. It’s very obvious, but it takes practice. You have to TRY. As a teenager, I often found myself frustrated at my limited ability to make conversation. Reflecting on this recently, I realized that I didn’t really ever try to converse with new acquaintances in any meaningful way. I believed I was introverted, so I didn’t bother making conversation. That’s not something introverts do, or so I thought. That wasn’t logical, of course, but I’ve learned since then we will do pretty much anything to uphold our self-concepts.

I also came up with this last tip. If you are having trouble thinking of anything to talk about, just say ANY stupid thing that comes to mind. You can ask the person what they think of grapes. Or if they’ve ever dreamed of flying an airplane. Or if they know how to spell onomatopoeia. You’ll notice that people will probably find these seemingly absurd topics more interesting than you would have guessed.

I hope this helps. If you’d like to navigate conversations with less stress, I highly recommend Always Know What to Say (it’s free on Amazon Kindle). Check it out if you want to know more, and I will be writing more on this topic in the future.

6 thoughts on “Be a Better Conversationalist

  1. This reminds me of Chapter 31 in Pride and Prejudice, where Mr Darcy claims he doesn’t have “the talent which some people possess… of conversing easily with those I have never seen before” and Elizabeth Bennet points out that she isn’t as good a pianist as some women, “but then I have always supposed it to be my own fault – because I would not take the trouble of practising.”
    I like your idea of saying any stupid thing that comes to mind. It turns out I can spell onomatopoeia! Yay!

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  2. Thank you! This is very useful … and sweet to hear about your experience. I particularly appreciate how you made up one tip at the end. My spiritual teacher John-Roger says, “The willingness to do gives the ability to do.” Great post, Tom. Debbie

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  3. A pity I didn’t know you back in my teenage years – we could have been dumbstruck together! But a girlfriend pointed out to me when I was about 16 that all you have to do to make conversation with a boy is to ask him about himself … and voilà! The problem was solved. I learned a lot about cars and football …

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  4. Tom,
    Good post. I’m glad you are delving into this. Conversation really is an art, but too many people seem to fear looking ridiculous so don’t try. It does take practice to become good at it. It also takes the willingness to listen with an ear to understanding rather than arguing or refuting, which block forward flow.

    By the way, I love grapes, and so do my chickens. I’m old enough to remember when grapes had seeds. I think I’ll try using that as a conversation starter.

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  5. I hate going to the type of things where I will be faced with strangers, forced to move from group to group. Torture. I never know what to talk about.
    Really like the grape thing, or just say anything…Good tip. 🙂

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  6. Are you sure about this? I’m pretty sure I fit the category of, “someone who is out to get you.” It’s why I troll blogs challenging things I know nothing about and making arguments against things with which I agree. Anyway, that was the first stupid thing that came to mind, so thanks for your help.

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