10 Steps for More Effective Conversations
If you have a strong ability to communicate, you can positively impact any interaction with another person. This is especially true when you know how to listen. A conversation is a two-way street, and simply being a great orator is not enough to make you a top-flight communicator. Aside from learning to listen, taking the following 10 steps can boost your conversation skills and effectiveness.
Understand the Who, What, When, Where, How and Why of the Conversation
As a speaker you know it is important to know your audience, but sometimes you head into a conversation with little or no preparation. In those instances where you do have some time to prepare, get to know as much about the interaction as you possibly can. Who will you be talking with? What is the central topic of discussion, and where will it take place? Understanding as much as you can about an upcoming conversation can make the outcome more beneficial for everyone involved.
Use It or Lose It
Your conversational muscles become stronger the more you use them. Practice makes perfect, which means engaging in conversations as frequently as you can to develop better skills. This is also known as practice, practice, practice. This is one reason why people come to organizations such as Toastmasters where they get the chance to speak with others on a weekly basis.
Empathy Is Important
Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others. Since conversations involve two or more parties, empathizing is important for conversational success. In order to understand the other person, it is important to really listen. That means to listen to not only the words, but the tone and the body language of the person you are speaking with.
A simple “Hello” is an effective conversation starter. Don’t overthink things. Simple conversation and small words keep people from feeling intimidated when you speak with them and can get your conversation started on the right foot.
Use Physical Clues
Is the person you are going to speak with wearing an item of clothing or a piece of jewelry that tells you something about that individual? Noticing and commenting on what a person is wearing is a tried and tested sales tool that leads to more effective conversations.
Repeat What You Just Heard
If someone asks you how you are doing today, it is polite to answer them. It is impolite not to ask them the same question in return. People subconsciously talk to you about the things they want you to talk to them about. Repeating bits and pieces of what someone says also improves your memory of the conversation later.
Face Your Audience
The most rewarding conversations take place when you look your audience in the eye. When you are “listening” while doing a task or with your back to the person, you are not really engaged in conversation. Stop what you are doing and look at the person while they are speaking and you are answering.
At the end of the conversation, express gratitude and thanks. This teaches you to be grateful for any conversations you have, and lets the person know you appreciated the interaction. Having conversations with one or two people helps you prepare to speak to a larger audience in the same manner.
Don’t Strive for Perfection
Unless you were born with a silver tongue, conversation might not be easy for you. This means you should work on your skills constantly, using the tips on this list. It also means recognizing that perfection as a communicator is virtually impossible to achieve. There is always something to learn.
After the conversation is over, critique your “performance”. What could you have done better? Where did you miss an opportunity to improve the conversation? You can only become better as a communicator by critiquing your conversational skills and performances and making the necessary changes.
To becoming a better communicator
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