Just the thought of going to a party or meeting new people is scary enough for some people, the reason being they are at a loss about having to keep up a conversation with so many strangers. And it's not just strangers or big groups of people. At times, we are uncertain how and what to talk to people we know well, whether it's a coworker or a friend.
We start off merrily by greeting others, trying to make small talk, and then find ourselves in an awkward position because we are not sure how the conversation should proceed further. We are left wondering whether people will find us boring, and that others may leave us alone.
Almost everyone, whether they like to admit it or not, have gone through this phase, at least once. Getting over this shortcoming is not a tough job. We, as humans, are born to communicate.
How to be an Effective Conversationalist
Make sure you ask open-ended questions. If you want to pay compliments your hostess about the food, don't just say "The food is delicious". Other than mumbling a thank you or a yes, the hostess might not say anything more, and you have lost out on a great chance to have interesting talk. Statements don't usually make good conversation starters.
Instead word it like "These appetizers are heavenly! Can you tell me how you prepared them?" Now you have not only praised them, but your question will now elicit a detailed response from your hostess, which can be a great way to begin a conversation.
A lot of people feel flummoxed as to where to and how to begin a dialog. Breaking the ice can seem tough initially, but it can get easier if you work on overcoming this weakness. Observe the person carefully, pay a sincere compliment, and you have got a conversation started!
Face the other person, and avoid crossing your arms or legs. Maintain an erect posture and appear genuinely interested in what he is saying. Maintain a good eye contact. Nod every once in a while.
Make sure you do not overdo these things, like smiling all too quickly, or nodding too often. These are signs that you are feigning interest in the other person, and the other person might slowly drift away from you.
If that happens often, take time to evaluate the speed at which you talk, your pronunciation, and your volume. Work on these factors and ask a trusted friend to correct you whenever you err. Thinking a moment before you actually mouth the words will help you improve your pace and tone.
How many times does the conversation comes to a standstill, after the customary hello, because you realize you have nothing to mention except the weather? Before you leave home, read up on the current news, or better still, if you know who all you are going to meet, try to garner some information about them, their likes/dislikes, profession, etc.
Remember, people like to talk about themselves. The next time you face a situation like this, venture out by asking others about the books they recently read, what sorts of movies they are interested in, or where they last went for a vacation, and the conversation will be on its course again!
No one wants to continue to talk to a smart-Alec, and if you do not involve others, you are likely to lose friends. And this does not mean faking interest. You must sincerely pay attention to others. Be a good listener.
Keep your eyes and ears open for all those tidbits of information coming your way which will prove helpful in continuing the dialog. When people talk, they often disclose a lot of things about themselves, their likes, work, etc. Keep an ear out for such things, pick on them, and keep the conversation in full flow.
Another aspect to this is echoing what others have said. It's one of the simplest ways to continue a conversation. Let's say, the person you are speaking to is talking about theater, and you do not know much about it. Repeat whatever he is talking about.
Whenever he mentions anything about a play, an actor, anything related to his profession, listen carefully and frame questions pertaining to aspects of the topic he is talking on. This will make the speaker feel you are sincerely interested in listening to him, and please him no end.
Also make sure you keep up with their choice of words. If they use the word "profession", stick to the word. Do not replace it with "vocation" or "job". When you speak their language, people will think of you as a sensitive listener.
It's especially important if you are having a telephone communication, rather than a one-on-one chat. Not only does it cheer up the listener, but if the person's attention is straying, it will pull him right back into your conversation.
These are some guidelines on how to have an effective conversation. Prepare and practice, and you will realize mastering the art of conversation does not require Herculean efforts. Give it some time, and you will soon work your way up and be the confident conversationalist you always wanted to be!