How to have good conversations
“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.” – William Hazlitt
Conversation should be fun.
One of the very best rules of conversation is to never, say anything which any of the company wish had been left unsaid. – Jonathan Swift
Conversation is supposed to be an opportunity to meet someone new, bond over shared interests – feel the spark of connection. It’s supposed to feel natural and flowing, where the right thing to say comes effortlessly. It’s supposed to be anxiety free, where you can focus on connecting with the other person instead of worrying about how you’re coming across. Unfortunately, for many people, conversation isn’t much fun.
Maybe that includes you. Maybe you feel anxious and stressed during conversations that others seem to enjoy. Maybe your conversations tend to sputter out prematurely, and you’re not sure how to keep them going. Or maybe you want more meaningful connections with others, but you’re not sure how to take your conversations beyond small talk and into that deeper level.
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The secret of conversation flow
Never talk for half a minute without pausing and giving others a chance to join in. – Sydney Smith
Sometimes, conversation flow seems to happen automatically. You and your conversation partner hit it off, and the conversation feels really smooth and comfortable. That’s great when it happens, but what do you do when conversations don’t flow?
Here is a link to guide you on how to get a conversation flowing:
An invitation is when you say something that explicitly lets your partner know it is their turn to speak.
An inspiration is when you say something that makes your partner want to speak unbidden.
Invitation: How to ask good questions
One of your primary tools for helping conversations flow is the idea of invitation. An invitation is something you say that:
- communicates very clearly that it is now your partner’s turn to talk
- gives a strong suggestion for what your partner should talk about.
Inspiration – the heartbeat of good conversation.
When conversations flow smoothly, people feel comfortable sharing even without an invitation. They’ll chime in whenever they have something they want to share and feel encouraged to share it.
This means that in order to create conversational flow, you should:
- Make your partner comfortable
- Inspire your partner to want to share
Inspiration in Practice
It’s simple and easy to apply inspiration in your conversations. When you want to inspire your partner, be deliberate to share something that might inspire them to share their curiosity, their thoughts, or their story. To inspire your partner to share their curiosity, share something they want to know more about. Use your knowledge of the other person to guide you as you craft great inspirations. When you share your thoughts, it encourages your partner to share their own. Thoughts can be your opinions, your speculations, or a topic that you’re curious about.
Invitation And Inspiration In Harmony
Great conversations need both invitation and inspiration. A conversation based entirely around invitations can sound like an interview: nothing but questions and answers. And conversations based entirely around inspirations are hard to do, because what happens when you attempt to inspire your partner and they don’t respond?