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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

UK Writer who loves to use the power of words to inspire and motivate.

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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