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5 Tips on Developing Strong Conversation Skills

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5 Tips on Being a Successful Conversationalist

Was that really a two-way conversation?

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone where…?

…every time you started to say something, they cut you off with one more thing they wanted to say?

…you realized, when you finished the conversation, that all you had said during the past 30 minutes was, “uh huh,” “oh,” “interesting,” “really,” or something else along that line?

…you found yourself looking around?

…you were always thinking about what you were going to say next?

…you caught yourself telling the person how much you knew about different subject matters, as opposed to listening to what they knew or simply answering their questions?

…you dominated the entire conversation, having not once asked about the other person or their opinion?

… whenever the other person started to share an experience of their own, you jumped in to tell them about something that happened to you?

…when you walked away, you knew the other person did not “hear” a single word you said or did not understand your opinion. Whether it was the same as or different from their own, you might as well have been speaking to the wall.

If you answered yes to the questions above, you may have been in a conversation – but it was one-sided. One person spoke, while the other listened. It may have been an information dump, with the sole purpose of sharing information, without getting feedback or someone else’s opinion. Examples of this would be an update on the status of a marketing campaign, the results of an event, or even a blog post like this. I must note, however, that in the case of this blog, I would prefer to be able to make this a two-way conversation, hearing others’ great points of view and ideas!

There is a time and place for one-way dialogue. However, frequently what’s supposed to be a two-way dialogue becomes one-way. What could have been a productive, engaging, and relationship-building conversation falls flat. How do we make sure we make the most of our conversations and that they are interactive? What do we do so that we are engaging in our discussions, not dominating them?

First, let’s look at why two-way conversations are crucial to businesses and relationship building. Then review a few suggestions on how to make this happen.

Please note, although this post is geared towards two-way, in-person (face-to-face, video, or phone) conversations some of the tips can be applied to email or text if there is back and forth messaging.

Why are two-way conversations important in business (and non-business) relationships?

When employees are able to share their thoughts with coworkers, as well as listen to others’ opinions and knowledge on various topics, an increase in job performances and positive work relationships often occur. Rather than being in a bubble with one’s own thoughts and opinions, different points of view allow growth and expansion for both individuals and businesses. It can even help with promotions – showing that an individual is a team player and open to learning about and listening to others.


What are “conversation skills?”

Conversation skills are defined as “a collective group of skills needed to communicate effectively with another person. They allow you to understand and be understood by others…allow(ing) you to connect with other people and build strong relationships.

Fine tuning your conversation skills allows you to make the most of opportunities in both your professional and personal life. It assists you in making sure your messages are communicated clearly and ensures “you say what you mean and hear what is intended.”

Are you ready to start taking your conversation game to the next level? Consider working on the following:

1 - Listen more than you speak

When you’re having a conversation, remember it is not a monologue held be you. We all want to be listened to, including the person(s) you are speaking with. Let them talk and share their information, concerns, and wealth of knowledge. You never know what you will learn!

You may have heard the quote by Greek philosopher, Epictetus, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Remember this the next time you’re engaging with a colleague or customer (or even a friend or family member). After all, “everyone likes to be listened to, and to be asked their views.”

While you’re listening, pay attention to details and ask questions. It shows you’re interested and are truly listening.

2 – Be interested: pay attention to details and ask questions

Nothing says you’re listening more than when you demonstrate it through body language and by asking related questions.

Lean forward slightly and have eye-contact. Resist the urge to look around, but don’t have stare-down contest either. Have you ever been speaking with someone, sharing information with them that you felt was important, only to have them looking all around as if they had somewhere better to be or someone more interesting to talk to? Don’t be that person when you are having a discussion, but rather give the recipient your undivided attention.

Share related information and experiences that will help build rapport with the other person, but don’t pontificate or try to one-up them with your experience or knowledge. Being a “know-it-all” can be an immediate turn-off. Even if you do know more than they do, speak less and listen as much as possible.

Ask questions about the information they are sharing. It shows you’re interested. Where applicable, share something about yourself related to the topic. “People tend to like other people whom they can relate to.”

3 - Create connection of similarities – but don’t compare

Think back to a conversation you’ve had where the conversation flowed comfortably back and forth. You felt you had a lot in common and were able to share information complimenting the person you were speaking with. Now, consider the time where no matter what you mentioned the other person had a bigger and better story. It felt more like a competition than a discussion.

Remember this the next time you feel the urge to share one of your own experiences after someone has told you something about themselves.  Ask yourself, “Why am I about to share this information? Will it minimize what was just told to me or truly add to the conversation? Am I making this about me or the person I’m speaking with?”

Which brings us to the next point. No one cares about you.

4 – Remember, it’s not all about you

It may sound cruel, but it’s the truth. During many conversations the other person cares more about what they’re saying than what you are. It’s human nature to want to talk about ourselves. Studies show that “talking about oneself activates pleasure regions of the brain, releasing dopamine and making people feel rewarded.” It is your job to give the person you’re speaking with the opportunity to talk about themselves.

When you do this, people will enjoy speaking with you – because you make them feel good. This doesn’t mean you never share your information. That would be boring. But make sure you do it when appropriate, and let the other person speak more.

5 - Watch for verbal and non-verbal cues

Wondering if you’re boring someone or talking too much? Watch for cues – both verbal and non-verbal. For example, is the person you are speaking with checking their watch or looking around? If they are, try reengaging them by asking an open-ended question about themselves or a subject matter they are interested in. Ask them about a detail from earlier on in the conversation - when you were actively listening. If this doesn’t work, it may be time to graciously end the conversation and let them move on.

Start being a conversationalist today!

Being an engaging and interactive conversationalist will help you be successful, both in the workplace and your personal life. Take some time during your next verbal interactions to focus on what the other person is saying, worry less about what you’re going to say next and more about what the person is actually discussing, and ask engaging and thought-provoking questions. Your colleagues, friends, and family will be glad you did and look forward to their next interaction with you.

And remember, “be interested and you will be interesting… If you are interested in others, and in the world around you, you will be interesting to talk to.”


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