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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
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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.

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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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