Want to improve your conversation skills?

Want to improve your conversation skills?

Try to meet over a drink or snack, because eating and drinking also reduces anxiety.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

Whether you’re interviewing for a job, dating, or just having fun, holding good conversations is a life-changing skill. The secret is to feel relaxed. It’s not always easy, especially when you’re meeting someone for the first time. But there are some techniques that can help.

So, as you greet one another, smile and focus on remembering the details of their eyes. That slightly longer gaze creates a connection, and makes you appear more confident. However anxious you might be feeling.

Tell yourself you already like each other, even before you’re sure. And stand tall, because a confident stance releases relaxing endorphins, even if it’s a total fake. Try to meet over a drink or snack, because eating and drinking also reduces anxiety.

Practise your small talk on waiters and shop assistants. Impersonal interrogative comments make good beginnings: ‘Gosh it’s noisy in here, isn’t it?’ And open ended questions make good follow-ups: ‘How’s business today?’

If you have trouble remembering people’s names, use them in the conversation. So when he introduces himself, reply ‘Nice meeting you, Luke.’ ‘So, Luke, how do you know John…?’

To understand the dynamics of a group, watch their glances whenever they laugh at something. People instinctively glance at the person they feel closest to as they laugh. Or their boss.

Keep eye contact

If you need a favour, ask for something very small first, like some information. Because someone who’s already done you a kindness is more likely to do you another. Even more than if they’re returning one. Sounds odd, I know, but it’s true!

If you want someone to feel good, rephrase what they’re saying in your own words. They’ll also feel that you’re really interested in what you’re hearing.

To tell whether someone’s really engaging with you, shift how you’re standing or sitting a little, or fiddle with your drink. If they copy your movement, they’re paying attention. Match your tone and choice of words to theirs and they’ll feel closer to you. And if you nod very slightly while you talk, it increases the likelihood they’ll agree with you!

If you ask someone a question and you don’t seem to be getting a full answer, just keep eye contact and say nothing. Maybe even raise your eyebrows very slightly. You’ll usually get what you want.

People generally focus less on the facts of a conversation, and more on the emotions they feel. Especially excitement, humour and curiosity. So vary your tone of voice and use pauses to create tension and amusement, and add details like colours, sounds or smells to create depth and interest. People may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.

Above all, the real secret to successful conversations is to focus on the person you’re talking to. So instead of worrying ‘What will she think of me?’ be genuinely curious about her. Ask questions and give sincere compliments. And before you know it, you’ll be having a great time together!