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The Mindset and Techniques You Need to Become a Great Conversationalist

The Mindset and Techniques You Need to Become a Great Conversationalist

You're on a first date, and all is going smoothly until suddenly… you find yourself running out of things to say.

It's as if your mind has taken a siesta. However hard you try, you can't find the words that you'd like to say. And by the look on your potential partner's face – they're now thinking of making an excuse to leave!

Losing the ability to think and speak in social interactions can be highly embarrassing. If you've ever suffered from this problem, then read on to discover what you can do about it.

It Isn't That You Have Nothing to Say. Just You Set a Filter in Your Mind.

Conversation should flow freely between individuals.

It's normal to have one party talk more than the other, but if you find yourself stuck for words, then you've probably allowed a mental block to prevent you from expressing yourself.

Mental blocks (or filters) can hold back your conversational skills. They are the equivalent of a blockage in a water pipe. Without the blockage, water flows freely. With the blockage, water struggles to make it through to its destination.

Think about this: Do you believe that all conversations should be meaningful or interesting? If you do, then in your mind, you're probably always looking to shut down small talk and trivial chatter.

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Small talk may seem inane to you, but it's often the fuel that lights up deeper conversations. If you believe small talk to be foolish, then unconsciously you'll keep guessing how others judge your speech. This means you will be self-censoring everything you say.

While being aware of whether we talk too much is a good thing, if you find yourself struggling for words, then you've probably gone to the other extreme.

For example, you've gone along to a housewarming party, and most of the guests are strangers to you. You'd love to spark up a conversation, but you don't know where to begin. Your mind keeps telling you… Say something interesting. Sound intelligent. Be funny!

It's this type of intense mental pressure that can prevent you from speaking openly and spontaneously.

Perhaps you're worrying too much, however…

Don't Be Too Concerned About What You Say, as Your Words Will Soon Be Forgotten.

Most people have a tendency to think too much about themselves. They are overly conscious of what they wear, what they do, and what they say.

Let me ask you this question: Do you remember everything your friends said at lunch a few days ago?

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Probably not. But you don't need to worry.

The vast majority of people are prone to quickly forgetting day-to-day conversations. It's normal. If we had to remember every word that everyone ever spoke – our memory banks would be bursting at the seams!

Actually, it's good news that most conversations are swiftly forgotten. This means that we don't need to pay too much attention to what we say. Put another way, we can speak freely – without worrying whether we're saying the right things.

Of course, if you say something offensive, that will be remembered. (Please avoid this.) However, trivial and funny comments are likely to drift from people's minds like an unanchored boat.

When it comes to conversations, you should also consider that the other person may be struggling to find something to say. You can help them out by always having something to tell – even if it's frivolous. And by continually having plenty to say, you'll likely be regarded as a great conversationalist.

If you have nothing to say, people will remember you for this. And unfortunately, their impression of you is unlikely to be favorable.

Conversation Is Easy and Natural When You Use These 3 Techniques

Would you like to boost your conversational skills? If yes, then you're in the right place.

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Here are three techniques you can use to develop confident and free-flowing interpersonal communications.

1. Start with topics that everyone can contribute to

It's a terrible feeling discovering that others are finding your conversation boring or silly. However, it's usually not your conversation that is the problem – but your chosen topic.

Let's say you've gone to lunch for the first time with a work colleague. Before they have chance to initiate a conversation, you immediately begin talking about your young children, the school they go to, and the problems you have with some of their behavior. The disinterested look on your colleague's face tells a story. Namely, they don't have children of their own – and they don't find conversations about children interesting either.

A better approach to this scenario, is to ask open questions. Such as: Are you enjoying working here? Where did you work before? How's your commute?

These types of questions are much more engaging and relevant. And your colleague is sure to have plenty to say in response to each of them. You'll have an interesting conversation, without effort or struggle from either of you.

2. Remind yourself that communication is like playing table tennis

Questions are great for kick-starting conversations. However, just like in a game of table tennis (aka ping pong), the best conversations involve regular back and forth between the participants.

Table tennis also acts as a good illustration of what constitutes agreeable conversations. During a game, each player will try to use a variety of playing styles (e.g., blocks, loops and smashes). This keeps the game lively and challenging. Conversations should follow a similar pattern. For instance, try alternating your side of a conversation with: questions -> comments -> sharing.

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As an example for you, imagine that you've been forced to share a table with a stranger in a busy café. You're initially reluctant to talk, but the other person seems friendly and open to conversation.

You could start with a question: "Do you come here often?" Depending on their reply, you could comment: "Yes, I can see why. It's a great coffee shop." You could then move on to sharing something about yourself: "I'm actually just here to get a caffeine boost before my job interview at 10 a.m."

I'm sure you get the idea. Questions… comments… sharing.

3. Realize that you don't need to know a lot of things to be a great conversationalist

Nobody likes a know-it-all. These people can dominate conversations, and make other feel uneducated and second-class.

To be a great conversationalist, you don't need tons of facts, you just need good stories. And what are the best stories? Personal experiences that others can easily relate to.

For instance, most people would be interested in hearing you tell stories about your holiday to New York, Rome or Tokyo. Especially, if you were to reveal funny incidents, inspiring moments and cultural differences. You could talk about an amazing meal, a stunning view – or even just how expensive everything was!

One of the secrets to being a great storyteller, is to evoke an emotional response in your listeners. You can do this by talking about your feelings. You can also flavor your language with sights, smells, sounds and tastes.

Knowledge and facts can often fall on deaf ears, but feelings and emotions are common shared experiences. Whatever the topic, we can all relate to emotive stories.

Interpersonal communications can be fun, friendly and worthwhile, if you practice the above techniques. You'll boost your self-confidence, and others will begin to see you as an expert conversationalist.

More by this author

Craig J Todd

Freelance Writer helping businesses and people to thrive.

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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