There’s no doubt about it if we just didn’t have to talk to other human beings life would be so much easier and safer, but it would be a great deal more stale and boring.
The ability to communicate with words makes us both unique and vulnerable.And the gift of speech makes us both a blessing and a curse. There is no eraser, no delete button, no shredder once our words leave our minds travel down to our lips and fly out into the world. Once that happens either encouragement or destruction has already been decided and neither is easily undone.
Quality conversation is a doctoral level art that takes years of study and practice. Yet we more often take it for granted like our freshman year speech class. Knowing how to stand up straight, enunciate your words and project your voice may help you give a speech, but it probably won’t make you a great conversationalist. I can say this without malice since my degree is in Speech/Communications.
But if you can avoid these four conversation death traps you will be well on your way to earning that doctorate in the art of conversation.
Always do all the talking. In fact only come up for air when it is absolutely necessary. This way you will be able to share all the wealth of information that is stored in your brain and say everything that your listener needs to hear without interruption. And don’t worry about letting them speak, they probably don’t have much to contribute anyway.
You can make a conscious effort to speak less and listen more because we’ve all experienced the person who literally doesn’t come up for air when they talk. It is a frustrating experience that leaves us feeling “talked at” rather than “talked to.” A conversation is defined as “informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy.” This definition becomes mute, punned intended, when one person hogs the conversation. It is no longer a conversation but a monologue and probably one that the audience has tuned out. So, speak less and listen more.
Never Speak or speak as little as possible. You are a person of few words and don’t feel any one would want to hear your ideas. What you have to say probably isn’t very important anyway. And it takes you so long to think about how to say something by the time you have it all figured out, the conversation has moved on to a different topic. You’re always just a thought behind. And when you do finally catch up and say something everyone looks at you like you’ve lost your mind or they ignore you.
You can realize that those who think through their words are often very wise and the world needs to hear your wisdom. This will take great courage on your part because, your right, heavy hitting talkers can be cruel and probably won’t listen the first time or the second time. But keep speaking up…keep sharing your thoughts and ideas because there are those of us who will listen and when you find us you will feel more at ease in your conversations. With practice you will be a great conversationalist and the world will be better.
Never make eye contact. You know as well as I do it is uncomfortable to look someone in the eye. It is much easier to text and tweet or shoot off an email. So when you are forced to speak to your boss or spouse or parent face to face just look past them or above them or better yet, stare at the floor or wall. The words are most important anyway.
You can understand the full meaning of someones words and they can understand you more fully because you look directly at them. The face and eyes will tell you a lot about what is not being said with words and your conversations will be richer and more meaningful in the process. Of course, if you have something to hide, keep staring at that floor.
Always respond with a blank stare. Showing emotion is a sign of weakness so you never want to “give away” what you are really feeling. A simple tactic is to stare blankly at the person talking to you. Even if you have to respond, a stoic look will shield any hint of feeling and mask your true reaction. Practice that poker face. It comes in handy in every day conversations.
You can share your true self in ways that mere words cannot fully transcend. Your voice inflection, body language, and facial expressions, including your eyes, give deep and rich meaning to your conversations. Without these others will find you, at the very least, boring, but more likely and tragically, aloof.
What other conversation tips do you have?