How To Master The Art Of Conversation
The benefits of being a good conversationalist are not as appreciated as they should be. Persons who have the ability to engage, interest, and entertain others with their speech are too often dismissed as mere talkers. However, it is through words that thought and feeling are most effectively conveyed. And putting a bit of artistry in the way you carry on conversations can help you leave a good impression on the right people. Whether you’re trying to get a date or advance your career, being a master of the art of conversation can create opportunities that you might not otherwise get.
Cultivation is the only means of getting hold of this muse. First, prepare your mind for conversation; and then, follow these practices when actually involved in it:
Few people like pushy, aggressive behavior. You may have very strong views on certain subjects, but you should watch that you’re not overbearing in presenting them. Remember, yours is just that: a point of view. Show the courtesy of allowing others to give theirs. No, you don’t have to “respect” every opinion. But there are ways of countering arguments that leave you looking good. My own practice is to perform intellectual judo on the positions of persons with whom I disagree. I’ll say something that shows an ironic consequence of their belief. This often brings the temperature down a bit and allows everyone to go on enjoying each other.
There is a good reason why politics and religion are topics best avoided in polite company: they stir deep passions. However, if you are in a situation in which speaking on such topics is unavoidable then you should keep things as general as you can. Suggest an idea that you’re pretty sure most persons involved in the discussion will agree to. This is not as hard as it may seem. There is more agreement than disagreement among most people on what is valuable in life. Steer the discussion in that direction and you will keep in safe waters.
One of the rudest things you can do is shut out a person trying to be part of the discussion. This usually occurs because of carelessness rather than malice. It is quite easy to get on a topic that only you and some other person knows about. You may not always be able to stop this from happening. But you can remedy it by giving the person who has just joined your group a quick summary of what you’re discussing. This will have the immediate effect of making them feel welcome, and you will win plaudits for your politeness and sociability.
There are few worst things in a conversation than listening to someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about. Avoid making ignorant statements. Even if it means that you are left contributing nothing to the discussion, you should not talk nonsense just so that you have something to say. You never know how much other persons in the group actually know, or whether one of them will call you out and make you look like a fool. If you are unable to follow the conversation, then you should ask intelligent questions of those who seem to have some insight into the matter. Not only will you avoid embarrassment, you might also learn a thing or two.
Avoid clichés and stock phrases. If you have something to say about current affairs, make sure you’ve reasoned through what you actually think; and then use your own words and turns of phrase to express it. Indeed, getting into the habit of being fresh and original is one of the best ways to master the art of conversation. People respond well to language filled with shrewdness and wit. If you make it your business to be fresh in your expression, you will come across as actually being so.
Your aim should be to give pleasure. This really is what the art of conversation consists in: the use of good diction and graceful manners to make being around you pleasant and enjoyable.
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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.