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 Being a Good Conversationalist

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Being a Good Conversationalist

The art of conversation involves having the confidence to speak freely about whatever comes to your mind (without self-consciousness or second-guessing yourself), but also in a manner that engages the other person to be interested in what you are saying and feel like you are interested in them as well.

Your conversation can cover many types of topics, such as these:

  • Talk about current events or news. For example, if you or the other person likes movies, have a story ready about a new release or the latest on a film star (Pam clinched Charles's interest when she talked about Japanese producer Kurasawa's death). Sports lovers can talk excitedly about the latest baseball records (if anyone's close to McGwire or Sosa's homers). Conspiracy theories about Princess Diana's death can stimulate analytic minds.

  • Use compliments. Notice -- and make a positive comment about -- your date's looks such as eyes or hair), actions (a gesture), expressions, or experiences. Jody was swept away when she slid into the booth at the restaurant and Geoffrey immediately noticed her unusual nail polish!
  • Ask a question. You might ask, "Where do you work out?" or, "Where's your favorite restaurant?"

  • Tell an interesting story about what you have done recently. You might have visited the White House or learned a new sport.

  • Talk about the moment. Tell how you feel about where you are and what you are doing. For example, you might say, "I'm excited to meet you," "I love industrial decor of bistros like this," or "This is my first calm moment after such a crazy day."

Some people seem to be born conversationalists or good talkers. but most people have to learn the skill by practice, getting a sense of what makes other people respond positively. Here are some tips to help you be engaging on your date:

  • Talk about subjects that are meaningful to you (from cooking to volunteering at a soup kitchen) so the other person can sense your passion.
  • Choose a subject that can lead to n engaging conversation (like your favorite movies, foods, travel destinations).

  • Talk about things initially that are positive rather than what makes you mad, so your date will not think you are a complainer.

  • Use words that are descriptive and rich in imagery (say "sparkling emerald" rather than just "green").

  • Avoid slang and worn-out clichés ("you know," "like," "uh") that may be a habit but that are boring to hear and don't flatter you.

  • Be provocative. Ask, "What's your dream for what you would most like to happen?" or "What do you think about the current controversy in the news about..." Or, talk about "My scariest experience growing up..."
  • Make connections from one subject to another. use the psychological technique of free association: What does one subject make you think of? For example, if you start with the conspiracy theory of Princess Diana's death, then you can connect this to the movie Conspiracy Theory -- with Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts, and from there talk about other Mel Gibson movies you enjoyed, such as Mad Max and how many sequels you've seen.

  • Keep yourself as informed and diverse as possible. Keep track of the news so you can talk intelligently about major developments in politics (wars in other parts of the world), economics (drops or rises in the stock market), sports (what season it is for which sport, major players (such as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan), and entertainment (current movie releases, plays, concerts).

  • Be surprising. Out of the blue you can interject into the conversation, "Oh, the Czechoslovakian President said in a news conference this afternoon that a poor Russia is better than a rich Soviet Union."
  • Develop the conversation. For example, if you start out with this statement about Russia (the fact), build on it by saying something like, "I thought that was fascinating" (your feeling). Then expand on that with an explanation, such as, "It was, of course, a statement about preferring democracy to communism," and then follow-up with an engaging question, such as, "Would you ever like to go to Russia?"
    Make statements and ask open-ended questions to get beyond just "yes" or "no." For example, ask "What is your favorite food?" instead of asking, "Do you like Italian food?"
  • Being afraid to say anything out of fear you'll sound silly, stupid, or foolish.

    In The New Millennium: Saying anything that comes to your mind, however it comes out of your mouth, without intentionally hurting the other person's feelings, of course. That shows confidence about who you are. Get in touch with your intuition. if it sounds strange to you, say so.

    Being too humble. Holding back saying nice things about yourself.

    In The New Millennium: Don't be afraid to toot your own horn. Hopefully you'll be appreciated and your date will see your fine points without you having to point them out. But you might as well do just that -- point them out. I don't mean that you should be a braggart or give yourself false compliments, but do say nice things about yourself. Talk about your successes and what you've done that you're proud of. Not only might your date be impressed, but he'll see your self-esteem, which will only cycle toward making you feel even better about yourself.

    Being afraid to tell a joke because you're not good at it.

    In The New Millennium: Remember, humor is the most attractive quality. Punctuate your conversation with a joke. Even if you're not good at joke-telling, you can likely remember and practice telling at least one. Or say, "I'm not great at joke telling, so roll with me on this..."


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