How do I become a Great Conversationalist?
Everyone's Favourite Topic
The first step in becoming a great conversationalist is to understand what everyone's favourite topic is: themselves. Yes, people love to talk about themselves. So, the first thing to do is to create a conversation around that topic. How do you that? Well, it's best to be genuinely interested in getting to know people. People are fascinating if you get genuinely interested. You will be surprised what you can learn and what joy you will experience from developing a real interest in people just for the sake of getting to know them.
It has been said that the shortest distance between two people is a smile. It's true. Smiling will help relax you and ease the tension in the air. Nobody wants to talk to a grumpy person, but everyone likes a bright personality, so smile! Do it now. You will feel your mood improve immediately. The phenomenal effect of a smile is that when you smile, you make an immediate connection with the person with whom you wish to start talking. So, now that you're smiling, start the conversation!
The simplest way to get to know someone is to ask questions. The easiest way to open a conversation is to comment about the weather. The nice thing about the weather is that normally it will not result in hard feelings or a controversial discussion.
Next, move into everyone's favourite topic. Start with asking for the person's name. When you get to a point when you can ask the person's name, offer your hand to shake and then look the person in the eye and say, Hi, my name is [your name]. What's yours? Sounds simple, no? It is. The key is the make a note of the person's face as you repeat their name back. Remember to keep smiling! Here's an example of a simple exchange:
You: Hi, my name is [your name]. What's yours?
New Person [Frank]: My name is Frank.
You: Hello, Frank. It's nice to meet you. Is that short for Francis, Frank?
Frank: Yes, it is, but folks just call me Frank.
You: Well, it's nice to meet you Frank.
Notice that Frank's name has been said more than three times in that exchange. While you are saying the name, look your new friend straight in the eye with a soft smile. This will help you match the name with the face.
The next question is a natural one. Ask where the person lives. Going back to your chat with Frank:
You: So, do you live here in town?
Frank: Yes, I live uptown.
You: Nice! Are you from here?
Frank: No, I'm originally from New York.
You can now pursue all sorts of lines of information from that answer. What does Frank enjoy about living uptown? What about New York? What brought him to move to this town? The next natural question is about who Frank lives with.
You: You live with family or friends?
Frank: It's my wife and I.
Now, if Frank has a child, you have a great conversation focussed on Frank's pride and joy! People love to share about their kids, so show some interest. Remember, you have developed a fascination about people. Continue to ask questions and let Frank share about his life. Again, remind yourself that Frank is talking about his favourite topic, so this will not feel strange to Frank. He's glad someone is interested in his life!
After learning about Frank's home life and family, you can move on to asking about Frank's pastimes and hobbies. It's easiest in the case of men to start with sports although this topic will also work with women. Returning to our little scene with you and Frank:
You: Do you enjoy sports?
Frank: Yes, I love baseball. I play on a local recreational team and watch the Yankees when they play.
You: You've been a long term fan of the Yankees?
Frank: Ever since I was a kid
Again, let the conversation roll out naturally. The key is to keep asking questions. Some people's hobbies can include travel, so asking if Frank has travelled would also be a great topic.
Note: you will be surprised how many people you can meet without the other person ever asking you a question. It's not really a surprise as you already know everyone's favourite topic. Don't be insulted if the person doesn't ask you a question back. You are allowing them to enjoy the chat. That's the key to great conversation: talking about what your new friend likes to talk about. Be a giving person when meeting people and you will be rewarded with a full and enriched life. If a new friend does ask you a question, answer politely and let the conversation go naturally. Remember to limit how long you take answering a question.. Make it simple and friendly, but not long-winded. Try to bring the focus back on your new friend.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The key to becoming comfortable and natural with this approach is practicing it. You could commit to meeting one new person today! The funny thing about people is that they're everywhere, in coffee shops, at bus stops, in lineups you will have no trouble finding them. So, get out there, smile and say Hi! you never know who you'll meet!
Written by: Jason Bermiller, Canada
Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )