Winning Conversation

As a shy young man I had to teach myself to converse with other people, and it is these experiences that enable me to help others today.

Good conversation is a great confidence builder. It’s vital in building relationships and mutual understanding. It’s how we get to know each other. Talk to anyone for ten minutes, even a complete stranger, and you already have a pretty good idea of that person’s world – whether it is happy or sad, filled with health or illness, peace, anxiety and so on. It’s the way they gain an impression of your world too!

The basis of good conversation is rapport. Establishing rapport is finding things you have in common and making the person comfortable with you.

Here’s ten rapport builders:

Ten things that people like in conversations

  1. To be uplifted

Few of us enjoy talking to someone who is negative, so if you can’t find something good to say, say nothing.

Some people try to make themselves appear superior by putting others down. It rarely works because other people usually want very little to do with them.  Moreover, they’re not really talking about the other person, but revealing what’s inside them.

Avoid sarcasm. William Shakespeare described it as ‘the lowest form of wit’ and ‘the last resort of a defeated mind.’ Although it can be funny, it is often misunderstood and can be cruel. Children, in particular, often fail to pick up the subtleties of tone and body language,

Uplifting conversation is attractive, but with one exception: if a person is obviously going through a hard time, you may lose rapport by being too positive so tone it down.

  1. Agreement

We all like someone who agrees with us, so look for something on which you can agree and let people know when you agree with them.

Don’t tell them when you disagree with them unless it is absolutely necessary (you’ll find it rarely is) and take care over how you phrase it. ‘What would you say to someone who said…..’ is a useful form of words.

There are times, of course, when you strongly disagree and have to decide how far to go to make your point, and whether it is important enough to risk jeopardising the relationship.

If another person is angry with you, try to take the heat out of the situation. Stay calm, talk slowly and lower your voice.  If this doesn’t work, raise your voice a little (until it almost as loud as theirs) then gradually quieten it. (This is a technique called ‘pacing and leading’). Eventually they’ll realise they’re the only one shouting and their anger will burn itself out.

  1. Descriptive language

Most people are primarily visual, so paint word pictures. Everyone loves an anecdote and a story told in an interesting way. Use words and phrases which stimulate the imagination and appeal to the emotions.

  1. Simple words

Use simple, familiar words – people hate pretentiousness and pomposity. You quickly lose other people’s attention if they can’t understand what you are saying.

  1. Self-disclosure

Sharing feelings is the essence of real communication. Nobody enjoys talking to people who reveal nothing about themselves. You don’t have to go into intimate detail, of course, and you want the other person to respect your privacy, just as you respect theirs. But how can you expect them to open up to you if you’re not willing to open up to them?

       6. I don’t know

Most people dislike a know-all. If they think you’re a person who has to be right all the time, you’ll scare them off. It is often better to say you don’t know, even if you think you do. (If the other person knows, he’ll be sure to tell you.)

You’ve probably used this tactic many times with small children. When you sense that a child asks you a question because he wants to impress you with the right answer, you let him – don’t you? Why not do the same with adults? The result is the same.

It takes a solid sense of self-worth to admit your mistakes, especially if you’ve hurt the other person’s feelings, but others usually admire you for it.

       7. Lighten up

A light touch builds bridges. You can always spot a person who takes himself too seriously – he spends a lot of time on his own!

8. Integrity

Integrity cannot be stressed highly enough. People with integrity are more popular and more effective as leaders. Their relationships tend to be more long lasting.

Be sincere. Always keep your word. Don’t make empty promises and never let people down. Avoid gossiping. People dislike gossips. At most, they tolerate them; sometimes they are amused by them, but they never respect them.

Anyone who will gossip to you will also gossip about you. Refuse to listen, change the subject and, if all else fails, walk away. And never tell a story you would have to interrupt from embarrassment if somebody else walked into the room.

  1. Own your feelings and opinions

When you express an opinion, it is yours. Own it. Use the first person when expressing your feelings and opinions – ‘I feel…,’ ‘In my opinion…,’ ‘I think…,’ and so on. When we use the pronoun ‘I’, it is like a statement of self-assertion, strength and integrity.

A woman who had been taken in by a con man told me, ‘You feel so useless. It makes you feel as if you want to run away and never come back.’ She was expressing how she felt, but she wasn’t owning it. What she meant was, ‘I did a stupid thing. I feel so useless. I want to run away and never come back.’

  1. Stop talking before your audience stops listening

If you don’t want to be remembered as a bit of a bore, be alert to the other’s signals and stop talking before your audience stops listening. When it is clear they have heard enough, politely bring the conversation to a close.

The basics of good conversation apply equally in business and in domestic and social situations. These techniques work if you practise them, and if you’re sincere. Take an interest in others. Accept them as they are. Be patient. Bring out – the best in them. Then you’ll be a good communicator – and a popular person!

©David Lawrence Preston, 15.6.2016

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How To Books, 2010


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