Saturday, April 30, 2011

Keeping A Conversation Going

Listen. When people say, “He’s a good conversationalist,” they usually mean that he is a good listener. Don’t lie in wait for one of those natural conversation breaks so you can jump in with your next prepared statement or question. Interrupting is the most common and among the most irritating errors people make in conversation. Let people know that you’re listening through eye contact, but don’t stare fixedly at them.
Also, ask open-ended questions such as “Why did you decide to volunteer?” or “How did you become involved with our group?” Questions that result in yes or no answers stop the flow of conversation.
People like to be asked their opinions and impressions concerning major news events:
“I heard this morning that the mayor resigned. Makes you wonder what’s behind that, doesn’t it?”
Every topic has its own natural life span, and if someone is going on endlessly about one thing, it is a good idea to cut in as tactfully as possible. If, for example, the back and forth about the mayor is lively and quick, settle down and enjoy it. If it begins to sag under its own weight, try changing the topic. The easiest way is switching to a related subject. “Speaking of politicians (or speaking of retiring or public figures or our city) ….”
When you’re engaged in a conversation, keep in mind the following don’ts:
  • Don’t perform. Performing happens when you are concentrating too hard on the impression you want to make on the other person.
  • Don’t speed-talk. Sometimes people who are anxious to make a point try to spit it all out quickly, as if they’re afraid they won’t be permitted to finish the thought.
  • Don’t slow-talk. A sure sign that you’re dragging things out is when other people finish a sentence for you or nod to indicate they understand even before you have reached the point of your remarks.
  • Don’t let your mind wander. Try not to watch other people moving around in the room while someone is talking to you.
  • Don’t hold a drink in your right hand. Doing so leads to damp, cold handshakes.
  • If your palm is sweaty, it’s okay to give it a quick swipe on the side of your trousers or skirt before extending it for a handshake.
  • Don’t broach touchy subjects. Avoid discussions about your health, the cost of things these days, mean gossip, off-color jokes, or controversial issues—particularly when you don’t know where the other person stands on the subject. On the other hand, it is okay to disagree. Wait until the other person has spoken and then introduce your point of view without being judgmental.
Don’t say, “That’s completely off base,” or “You couldn’t be more wrong about that.” Instead, say something like “I disagree because …” or “Well, another way of looking at it is ….”

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