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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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