2 1. Be confidentBeing around confident people makes you feel good. For example, having a confident boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, or a friend makes you feel better. The other person's energy and enthusiasm is infectious, and makes all the conversation participants feel confident and comfortable. Projecting confidence is the key to a good conversation, so don't be shy.
3 2. Find out about the person Find out about the person you'll be talking to before you actually talk to them, if you can. If it's someone who you work with, or go to school with, look at their department website, or see if the person is on any social networks before talking to them for the first time. (But remember! There is a fine line between finding out general information about someone, and coming across like a stalker.) The information you get though can be a good starting point for conversations."I was looking at the biochemistry department website and saw that you're working on a pretty interesting thesis! How did you come to choose that topic?""I saw on the office memo that you're working on the outreach project for local schools. How's that going?”"Milly here told me that you went skydiving!"
4 3. Ask questionsWhat do they like to do? What sort of things have they done in their lives? What is happening to them now? What did they do today or last weekend? Identify things about them that you might be interested in hearing about, and politely ask questions. Remember, there was a reason that you wanted to talk to them, so obviously there was something about them that you found interesting. However, try to space out your questions or they'll feel like you're interrogating them which is very bad and closes off friendships.
5 Questions (cont.)Ask clarifying questions. If the topic seems to be one they are interested in, ask them to clarify what they think or feel about it. If they are talking about an occupation or activity you do not understand, take the opportunity to learn from them. Everyone loves having a chance to teach another willing and interested person about their hobby or subject of expertise.Try to get them talking about something they enjoy thinking about and something that you're interested in hearing or else the conversation isn't fulfilling and one of you will feel unsatisfied with it.
6 4. ListenThis is the most important part of any conversation. Pay attention to what is being said. Make acknowledging noises or movements to indicate that you are still listening. A conversation will go nowhere if you are too busy thinking of anything else, including what you plan to say next. If you listen well, the other person's statements will suggest questions for you to ask. Allow the other person to do most of the talking. They will often not realize that it was they who did most of the talking, and you get the credit for being a good conversationalist - which of course, you are!
7 Listen (cont.)Practice active listening skills. Part of listening is letting the other person know that you are listening. Make eye contact. Nod. Say "Yes," "I see," "That's interesting," or something similar to give them clues that you are paying attention and not thinking about something else - such as what you are going to say next.Paraphrase back what you have heard, using your own words. This seems like an easy skill to learn, but takes some practice to master. Conversation happens in turns, each person taking a turn to listen and a turn to speak or to respond. It shows respect for the other person when you use your "speaking turn" to show you have been listening and not just to say something new. They then have a chance to correct your understanding, affirm it, or embellish on it.
8 5. Consider your response before disagreeing. If the point was not important, ignore it rather than risk appearing argumentative. On the other hand, agreeing with everything can kill a conversation just as easily as disagreeing with everything. When pointing out your difference of opinion, remember these points: Agree with something they said (state common ground) before disagreeing.
9 Disagree?Try to omit the word "but" from your conversation when disagreeing, as this word often puts people on the defensive. Instead, try substituting the word "and"--it has less of an antagonistic effect.Playing devil's advocate (pretending to defend the opposite point of view) can be a good way to keep the conversation going, but if you overuse this technique, you could end up appearing hostile.Don't manipulate the talk to serve your own agenda and steam-roll your counterpart. If you come away from the conversation feeling full of yourself, you used the occasion to show off your wit and knowledge. Try to keep from using a conversation to boost your ego.
10 6. Do not panic over lulls.This is a point where you could easily inject your thoughts into the discussion. If the topic seems to have run out, use the pause to think for a moment and identify another conversation topic or question to ask them. Did something they said remind you of something else you have heard, something that happened to you, or bring up a question or topic in your mind? Mention it and you'll transition smoothly into further conversation!
11 7. Not going well?Remember that sometimes if a conversation isn't going well, it might not be your fault. Sometimes the other person is distracted/lost in thought, isn't willing to contribute, or is having a bad day. If they don't speak or listen, then they are the ones not using good conversation skills, not you. But in any case, it's still a good idea to strive to do your part as a good conversationalist.
12 8. Know when the conversation is over. Even the best conversations will eventually run out of steam or be ended by an interruption. Smile if you're leaving, tell them it was nice talking to them, and say goodbye. Ending on a positive note will leave a good impression.