The Art of Conversation

The Art of Conversation

By: Stephanie Munez | Special Projects Assistant
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Think back to a memorable or enjoyable conversation. What did you talk about and what made it memorable/enjoyable? Interacting with others happens on a daily basis, whether it is at a business meeting, presentation, or an informal conversation with a friend or co-worker. Mastering this skill can lead to better relationships between co-workers, friends and clients. Here are a few techniques:

Be Aware of Your Body Language

Present yourself in a way that allows other people to perceive you as approachable, engaged, and intrigued. Be mindful of your posture. Sitting or standing with your back straight and elongated will demonstrate your confidence. Slouching with your arms crossed can be off-putting. While speaking to one person or a group, demonstrate that you are interested in the conversation by smiling, nodding, and maintaining eye contact. Generally, people are more likely to open up and feel comfortable talking to you if you have set this foundation for the conversation.

Be Polite

Upon meeting a person or a group, introduce yourself with a formal handshake. During the conversation, listen carefully when someone is speaking and do not interrupt this person. Try to listen more than you speak because doing so will help you learn more about the other person. When you have finished, shake hands again, followed by something along the lines of “it was great meeting and chatting with you.” It is also highly recommended that you exchange contact information with each other to expand your network, and maintain these new connections by engaging in future conversations in-person or through social media. There are 8 steps to build relationships after networking. Read the article to learn about customizing follow-up letters and connecting with these new contacts on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.

Be Confident, but Modest

Act confident by talking in a strong and clear voice, and avoid displaying any nervous mannerisms. However, find a balance between being confident and modest. You are not trying to overpower the people you are speaking with by boasting about your accomplishments because this can make some feel inferior. You would like your audience to open up to you and making yourself seem superior can be a barrier to this goal.

Topics of Conversation

People enjoy talking about common interests, work, volunteer activities, hobbies, and family. Your goal is to excite the other person into the conversation by talking about something that he or she would be interested or passionate about. People generally love talking about themselves and getting them to do so makes them feel more comfortable talking to you. Occasionally ask open-ended questions to advance the conversation, or by talking about mutual interests or similar experiences. Find common ground and avoid using every occasion as an opportunity to talk more about yourself. Also steer away from sensitive subjects, like religion, politics, money, relationships, and health.

Be Yourself

At times it is easy to get carried away in conversations, especially if you come in with the intention of being unique, memorable, or are trying to impress someone. However, the best way to handle a conversation is to be yourself because this is what comes off as natural. Approach conversations with a positive attitude and avoid any negative judgments or criticisms.

Now that you’ve gotten a few tips and tricks on the art of conversation, why don’t you try it out tomorrow at your next university class, workshop, or volunteer training. You can also apply this advice in the future during informational interviews, job interviews, or at staff meetings. The key to mastering this skill is practice!

Posted on October 16, 2013