6 tips for conversation

Talking1Making conversation has been a learning curve for me. I tend to over-analyze and over-think things. I stutter, trip over my words, and make up new ones. Over time I’ve learned to minimalize or mask these things with humour. As a “functioning” adult with the façade of being well spoken and articulate, I’ve learned a few things that make conversations easier. I’m sure you’re familiar with most of these and if you have any others, I’d love to hear them.

1. Speak slowly

When I’m in a conversation, I often speak quickly, afraid that someone will cut me off before I finish. Speaking too quickly causes me to slur my words and trip over my tongue. If I slow down, I can choose the exact words I want to use and it reduces my stuttering. It also has the added benefit of making me appear thoughtful and well-spoken.

2. Ask questions

One of the best ways to keep a conversation flowing is to ask questions. If someone has recently gone on a trip, I ask questions to find out where, when, what they did, how they felt, what their favourite part was. You can also interject your own experiences, similar or otherwise, to add your thoughts to the mix. This creates the illusion of a balanced conversation even though you’re the one driving it.

3. Discover mutual interests

Finding something that both of you enjoy or are passionate about creates a conversation that fuels itself. By looking at their clothing, accessories, the book they’re carrying, etc, you can gain insight into their style and the things they like. I’ve seen people with cute characters on their bags and started a conversation from there. People love talking about things they like, so its a great conversation starter.

4. Listening

I’m sure most introverts have perfected this one. In any conversation, listening is just as important as speaking. If someone doesn’t feel as if they’re being heard, it discourages them and they’re less likely to contribute next time. I know this from a lot of personal experience. Being a good listener, nodding and making eye contact helps the speaker to feel as if they’re being heard.

5. Create an exit strategy

I always have an exit strategy prepared for any situation. If a conversation is starting to drag on or if I need to take a break, I have a few options to excuse myself politely. If I’m in a one-on-one conversation I’ll usually remark on how I enjoyed our conversation and how I need to *insert reason here* with a smile. Then I leave right away. If I’m in a group conversation, I’ll politely excuse myself with a simple ‘excuse me’ and depart.

6. Take note of non-verbal cues

Facial expression, body stance, and tone of voice are huge indicators of how others are feeling or reacting. If you’re aware of other people’s non-verbal cues, you can adjust your conversation accordingly. I wrote a short post here about the subject if you’re interested. Additionally, knowing how you come across to others can be beneficial as well. For example, a straight posture conveys confidence, appropriate eye contact conveys interest and sincerity, and facial expressions can speak louder than any words. What you don’t say is just as important as what you do.

Do you have any tips for better communication?

Image credit: “Talk” by Leo Hidalgo is licensed under CC by 2.0

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20 thoughts on “6 tips for conversation

  1. VTNessa says:

    I have made several words up, or accidentally spoken foul words when two or three words I was trying to say ran together. So glad to know someone else out there gets that! 🙂
    Great suggestions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ally says:

      That’s the worst! I always mash several words together and it sounds ridiculous. It’s happened so often that I’ve gotten used to laughing it off or making a joke out of it 🙂

      Like

  2. Warrior Freya says:

    I love how you have “exit strategy” as one of the tips. I don’t think I was ever conscious of having one, but as an introvert it is interesting to realize that I always and a handful of them handy for when I started to get overwhelmed.

    I feel like you made a pretty solid list. I can’t think of anything that I do differently or additionally.

    Being involved and present in the conversation I think is the most important thing. If I feel the conversation isn’t engaging enough to be worth my time I excuse myself with whatever it is I feel I should be doing instead. Politely of course since saying something like, “watching paint dry,” might be taken as insulting for some reason…

    If I find the conversation worth my time, then it should have my full attention rather than letting my mind wander, looking at my phone, or any number of other things which can distract people, myself included. Showing the person that you are truly present and hearing them is, in my opinion, the best way to have a worthwhile and genuine conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ally says:

      You make a good point and I totally agree with you. If you’re not present and involved (especially on a non-verbal level) you’re wasting everyone’s time.

      I wish I could tell everyone that its okay to politely excuse yourself when the conversation isn’t engaging you. I’ve stood through far too many conversations that consisted of one person talking about themselves. I refuse to waste my precious time on things like that any more.

      Ah yes, the phone thing. I’ve been in lots of conversations where people will pull their phones out periodically to reply to a text. It really bothers me. If I need to check my phone, I’ll do so when I’m not talking to people.

      Thanks for the comment, I always enjoy your perspective 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Salvageable says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve learned to speak slowly (most of the time), but I still have trouble with eye contact. I think I do it too much and make people uncomfortable–now I try not to look at them more than they look at me. I have to focus on body language, too–for a lot of people, reading those signs is natural, but not for me. I like the idea of an exit strategy–I never thought about that before. J.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ally says:

      I’m so happy it resonated with you. I’ve always struggled to make eye contact. For the longest time I’d end up staring at the ground rather than looking at their face. I’m grateful that reading body language comes easily for me, but its definitely a skill that can be learned too. Hope you’re able to create your own exit strategies 🙂

      Like

  4. thewishingwell says:

    I like how you mentioned using humor to compensate for other anxieties in conversation. I have to remind myself to do the same! If you can brighten someone’s day at all, they won’t remember if you stutter, or trip over your words. At least that’s been my experience, as a frequent tripper-over-words. I like your reminder to speak slowly, and I’m going to try that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ally says:

      You make a great point. Humour is an incredible tool for putting others (and ourselves) at ease. We’re probably the only ones that remember all our little slips and mistakes 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ally says:

      Listening is vitally important and is something that should be practiced by everyone in a conversation. I had to look up ‘interlocutor’ and it is a fitting word to use 🙂

      Like

  5. pearlgirl says:

    Great list. 🙂 I trip over my words all the time. I think I need to work on speaking slowly, though that’s especially difficult if I’m nervous about something or feel like there’s someone else waiting to speak. So most of the time I just remain quiet. haha, but reading other people’s body language can be such a huge help with that!

    I also love the idea of having an actual exit strategy. In the past I’ve stayed in awkward or unproductive conversations for far too long, but that’s improving with time. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ally says:

      I know the feeling. If I’m speaking in front of more than two or three people, I try to talk quickly as I don’t like being the centre of attention for too long. So glad you’re making progress in picking and choosing the conversations that really matter to you, its something I’m still working on as well 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lauren Zazzara says:

    This is so relatable! Especially when I’m meeting someone for the first time and I’m nervous, I speak so quickly, and I’m so concerned about what I’m going to say next that I struggle to listen to what is being said. Being present during the conversation can take a lot of the stress out of it! And I’ve learned that even if I think I sounded stupid or awkward, the other person probably (hopefully!) didn’t even notice 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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