…or how to gain pleasure from your interactions
In my last post I challenged you on your conversation skills, asking whether you were a good conversationalist or a great talker. We aren’t born with the skills of a good conversationalist, but they can be learned.
If you want to gain pleasure from your interactions, the following are essential qualities for good conversations:
There are countless guides on the rules of conversation from way back in history. Maria Popova at Brain Pickings (she’s brilliant at bringing together gems of interestingness on a broad range of topics) has distilled one such book from 1866. It shows that there is a parallel between good conversation and good manners and that the rules are timeless.
We all know (well, we should know) what it means to be courteous even if we don’t always behave politely. I’ll just mention a few:
- don’t monopolise the conversation with a long-winded account of your latest trip or a tirade against your current pet hate
- don’t talk too loudly
- be attentive when someone else is speaking
- remember names
- don’t be a bore and talk about yourself
- don’t interrupt when some else is speaking
- don’t fidget
- don’t interrupt when some else is speaking
- checking your phone while someone is talking is a no-no
Conventions of good manners however, although vital in a civil society, are not definitive when it comes to good conversation.
2. Active listening
This means concentrating fully on the speaker rather than passively hearing. It also involves non-verbal cues to show that you are giving your full attention:
- smile and nod to show that you understand and that you are happy to hear what they have to say
- make eye contact: this encourages the person to continue to speak
- your posture says a lot about your attention and interest in what your companion has to say: leaning in slightly shows an attentive listener
3. Know when to be silent
A powerful skill of the good conversationalist.
Cicero said ‘Silence is one of the great arts of conversation’. It is gracious to allow your companion to say what they have to say without interruption. It shows you’re listening and it’s a sign of respect and empathy.
Silence applies to your mind as well as your mouth. Closing your mouth just in order to formulate your next utterance causes distraction. Your brain is working to put the words together and your ears aren’t listening actively. And… you may miss some great conversational gems!
In our chattery society silence is rare. I like the phrase ‘silence is golden’. To me it is a precious thing to be appreciated and enjoyed.
4. Self disclosure (know what and when to share)
Self-disclosure is revealing something personal about yourself. And likewise, the other person has to reciprocate. It is the fuel of friendship—how relationships develop and strengthen.
The tricky part is how much information to disclose. You don’t want to share your life story with someone you’ve just met. But in order to get to know someone, and also to make decisions about whether you like each other, you both have to reveal something of yourselves.
Self-disclosure doesn’t mean that you have to be ready to pour your heart out to someone you’re getting to know. It could just be mentioning your favourite football team or sharing which books you are reading at the moment. This helps us make decisions about whether we like each other, whether there is a spark or connection and if we want to have another conversation or build a relationship.
By sharing your stories, you encourage and prompt the other person to share as well. This creates a good conversation flow.
5. Be curious, interested and interesting
Ask questions which give the other person the opportunity to express their opinions. This helps people to relax and share their stories and ideas.
When they are sharing, show geniune interest by being attentive (smile and make eye-contact). This also encourages the other person to ask you some questions.
If you are informed about what’s happening in the world, you are well read and have a few interests or hobbies, you will have something interesting to say. This give and take keeps the conversation moving along in a pleasurable way for both parties.
6. Leave your companion feeling good for being in your company
All of us feel uplifted if we’ve spent time in good company. Sharing ideas, having a laugh or learning something new brightens our day and makes us look forward to our next interaction with each other.
If these six ingredients are present in your next conversation, I guarantee you’ll come away feeling uplifted and valued.Join the conversation! Photo credit: Frank Kovalchek