The art of conversation is a highly used and important skill for all stages of your life. You will need to communicate with other people everyday of your life in one way or another. As you prepare for this next move—starting at a new college, starting a new job, joining a sorority or club—your communication skills become more important.
Developing Meaningful Conversation
Think back to the most memorable or meaningful conversations you have had. What do they all have in common? They made you feel valued or important. They excited you. You were engaged and felt like the other person was really hearing you and actively listening to your opinions. Now, think back to a conversation you dread having again. What was the primary feeling in that situation? It is likely boredom or annoyance. Most of the time, conversations that are solely about the other person and their interests aren’t going to be all that interesting to you. Unless of course, you are hearing the tales of someone’s extraordinary life.
Finding the Right Topics
Depending on the level of relationship, your topic of conversation will vary. However, even if you are meeting someone for the first time, you can make the conversation meaningful. A meaningful conversation doesn’t have to be a heavy topic with a lot of personal feelings or information. You can have a “surface-level” conversation with a stranger and it still be enjoyable. You simply need to engage the other person in whatever discussion you are having. It helps to be up-to-date with current issues, latest news, community issues, and the like. Being well-read/well-informed broadens your perspective and gives you more topics to confidently discuss. Establishing a common ground, no matter how small, always helps “break the ice.” A common ground can be some-thing as simple as, you are in a similar time in your life, or you have a common interest or hobby.
Creating An Open Line of Communication
Create an open line of communication—provide a space for someone to feel comfortable, safe, and validated. This begins with your demeanor and responses. If you get offended by something someone says and decide to argue fiercely, they will automatically shut down and feel attacked. This means the open line of communication is tightly shut and locked.
The key to having a meaningful conversation lies in the way you approach the topic, the way you respond, and whether you put effort into continuing the conversation. The ability to hold deeper conversations, beyond simply talking about yourself, your day-to-day routine, your accomplishments, etc. starts first with listening. No one enjoys being “talked at,” people want to “talk with you,” as in, have an active conversation with you. Ask, listen, respond accordingly.
How to Gauge A Person’s Interest
Forced conversations can be painful. We have all been a part of forced or stagnant conversations, where the person runs a topic into the ground and it’s clear neither of you know what to say next. Once you determine a common ground, it can be scary to steer away from it, so you exhaust that topic for fear of awkward silence. Learn to read other people. This is HUGE. If you are not paying attention to the other person, (tone of voice, response quality, eye contact, body language, etc.) you can easily miss when they check out of the conversation or if you are boring them.
3 signs you have lost someone’s attention
- Delayed response
- Looking around
- Uninterested tone of voice
You don’t have to try and be the smartest or most informed person in the room. You don’t have to wow anyone with what you have to say. The best method of meaningful conversation is to go with the flow. Read the situation and listen to what the other person has to say—you may learn something new. Not everything has to be a deep conversation—many, especially at social events, consist of light-hearted and cheerful banter. If one-liners or jokes aren’t your strong suit, you can always listen, smile and enjoy the humor.
Keys to Being A Good Communicator
- Do not make a conversation all about you. A monologue is not conversation.
- Be an active listener, maintain good eye contact, and ask relevant questions.
- Do not cut in with your own ideas before the other person is finished speaking.
- Keep an open mind and let others express themselves even if you don’t agree with what they are saying.
- Try to avoid sensitive or volatile topics such as religion and politics.
- Show you are approachable by keeping a friendly attitude.