Most of us would have heard the phrase: “Oh him! He can charm the birds out of the trees”. This phrase is often used while referring to a person who has great conversational skills and a very engaging personality. Some people are simply born with the ability to be good conversationalists while others are reticent by nature. What is it that makes us good conversationalists? Is it an acquired skill or something innate? Why is it important? How do we define good conversational skills? How do we develop the art of becoming good conversationalists?
First of all let us consider the question of whether conversational skills are in-born or acquired. Like any other skill; the basic ability to carry out a conversation, at least to some degree, is in-born. If we have the basic innate skill, then we can learn to become engaging conversationalists. Some people are extremely quiet and introverted and simply do not open up at all. In other words, by nature, they are not inclined to talk. It is extremely difficult to make good conversationalists out of such people.
But if one has a modicum of ability to make good conversation, he or she can learn to become a great conversationalist.
Next comes the question, why is being a good conversationalist so important? In today’s fast paced world the ability to make good conversation is important in several fields of endeavor like business, marketing, industrial relations, teaching and so on. Come to think of it, it is essential to have good conversational skills to get on well in almost any aspect of our social interaction. Look at any strata of the society. You will find that majority of the people who have successful careers have good conversational abilities.
Let us now define this skill. When do we say a person has good conversational skills? We have often heard of the term chatter-box. Several times we groan inwardly when someone approaches us because we know the person’s conversation would be long winded, boring and an assault to the eardrums. It is foolhardy to liken a good conversationalist to a person who talks a lot. A person who talks a lot is a chatter-box whereas a good conversationalist is a person who has the ability to get one’s attention and keep one interested in what he has to say. A good conversationalist’s talk would be meaningful and interesting.
Finally let us deal with how one can become a good conversationalist. If you want to strike a conversation with a perfect stranger in a train journey, what is the best way to do it? In the case of a train journey, I have often found that a simple question like “Which station are you getting down at,?” is enough to set the ball rolling. It is a safe and non-threatening question which most people are willing to answer. The importance of train conversations cannot be stressed enough. Friendships struck over train conversations have been known to lead to great business partnerships.
To be a good conversationalist, the ability to listen is extremely important. It is very important to be able to absorb and assimilate what other people are saying. This helps in developing the conversation further as one can ask relevant questions based on what one hears. Appearing too eager to talk and not willing to listen gets people annoyed, with the result that they are no longer interested in carrying the conversation further.
If you appear interested and involved in what the other person has to say, they in turn, will be interested in what you have to offer and it gives a general impetus to the conversation in the right direction.
In conversations it is important not to appear to be a nosy-parker. When we are talking with people, it is extremely important that we do not ask questions of a very personal nature until a certain degree of rapport has been established and we can also be reasonably certain that the other person is willing to and in fact wants to say something of a personal nature. Blundering on with questions of a personal nature before one is on comfortably friendly terms is a sure way to kill a conversation right at the outset.
In a conversation involving a number of people it is important to listen to everybody and pitch in with talk only at the right time. It is a cardinal sin to try and hog the limelight by talking too much at every turn. It is extremely important to listen to what each person has to say and to gather ideas from everyone. In such a conversation it is important to observe how ideas from different people are going down with the group as a whole.
While commenting on any issue or idea proposed by another member it is very important not to be offensive or crude. Your comments on other people’s ideas should be logical and constructive, be it criticism or praise. They should also be presented with clarity.
Other important aspects of the art of conversation are wit and humor. In a conversation the ability to crack a joke or reply wittily to some question goes a long way towards establishing good rapport. In group conversations like important business meetings, humor lightens the mood especially at times when tempers are frayed due to differences of opinion between the participants.
A charming wit and a propensity for humor are great tools for making good conversation. It is also important in a conversation not to ramble on endlessly and to speak clearly without getting over-emotional.
In conclusion, if a person has some basic conversational skills, he or she can develop into a very good conversationalist. The quality is innate to some extent though not entirely. By carefully training oneself by observation and practice, one can learn the art of being a great conversationalist. The importance of the art of conversation cannot be stressed enough. It is a great tool to have on one’s side.
The Art Of Conversation