Why a Good Conversationalist
Relies on Etiquette

Three Men Talking

Who wouldn’t desire to be thought of as an interesting person?  Much of this characteristic depends on how you engage others in conversation.

Are you sending “I’m listening” signals?

Communicating is different than conversing.  We’re communicating something all of the time -- whether intentional, noticed by others, or not.  With words or silence, facial expressions, gestures, posture, stance.  Communication can be intentional, but not necessarily.  It is sometimes unintended.  Conversation is intentional.

Communication as a whole doesn’t depend on etiquette.  But being a good conversationalist does.

The Most Important Part

A great conversation requires courteous back and forth.  This back and forth exchange is dependent upon intentional listening. 

The Golden Rule of conversational listening is that you listen to appreciate. 

Steps for finding appreciation:

  • Take in what is actually being spoken.
  • Listen to tone and not just words, being observant of body language as well.
  • Re-state key points of what the conversant has said.
  • Respond with an appreciative point.  "Harold, I heard you say that your mother has been unable to travel due to virus concerns, but is she able to stay in touch with her friends otherwise?"

Not only does this practice keep you mindful of showing kindness, you'll automatically think of clarifying questions to ask that help keep the conversation going and keep the focus on the values being communicated.

However, we are all guilty of letting our minds wander or finding ourselves genuinely uninterested in what someone is saying.  In these situations, you miss portions of dialogue and can easily get caught not following along.

You can detect when you’re only half-listening if:

  • You can’t recall the person’s name or worried that you don’t recall it.
  • You don’t have a context for what the person is saying.
  • You’re thinking of something else or what you want to say when he stops talking.
  • You couldn’t re-phrase or re-state what the person just said.
  • You aren’t aware that your plate is the only one near full!
  • You’re judging yourself in thinking that you don’t have anything intelligent to say.

If any of these things are happening, do your best to pull yourself back into the present with your conversation partner. 

Mindfulness grows with intentional practice and this is the key component in being etiquette-fully aiming to be a good conversationalist.

Every Good Conversationalist Knows Small Talk

What is often underestimated in conversation?  Small talk! 

Small talk is the bridge between you and another person.  The beauty of it is that it’s commitment-free.

Here’s how it works: 

  • You see someone in your vicinity and, whether you know that person or not, think of something you have or may have in common. 
  • You then mention that thing in common. 
  • Depending on the response, you may ask a follow-up question.
  • Depending on that response and the situation at hand, you may ask another question to keep the conversation going or excuse yourself and take your leave.

It takes some practice, but it’s the perfect way to meet new people, engage someone you’ve wanted to talk with, and establish common ground.

Keep it Positive

Sometimes what stands out are differences, yet always looking for the common ground is a pillar of being a good conversationalist.

If you give the other person the benefit of the doubt, and even elevate his intentions in your mind, it can yield a delightful conversation.

Conversation is not about debate.  Debate has its place in life, and while we all hope to be able to communicate our ideas in a straightforward and logical way, a one-on-one chat is not necessarily the ideal forum for conflicting perspectives.

Keep your words, expressions, and mannerisms positive.  And if a conflicting idea or perspective is brought up, show respect for the person expressing it – even though you are not obligated to agree.

Being a good conversationalist is not an end state.  It requires consistent and never-ending practice.  But a default to positivity, respect, and kindness will earn you the reputation of being one.

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