The Art of Making Conversation

Sheila and Ana entered the party together but whereas, Sheila was within moments, surrounded by a knot of people eagerly hanging on to her every word, Ana found herself conforming to the classic prototype of a wallflower. She stood quite alone in a corner, embarrassed and miserable, trying hard to look unconcerned but inwardly wishing she could be swallowed up by the floor.

Why this marked difference between the two friends? The answer lies in the talent for making conversation. A necessary requisite of modern life, this art is not difficult to master, if you keep a few points in mind:

Be a good listener: Paradoxical as it may seem, being a good conversationalist, means, to a very great degree, being a good listener! Everybody enjoys attention- but be genuinely attentive. You may not realize it, but there's nothing more “put-offing” than the feeling that the other person is not listening to a word of what you are saying.

Don’t be in a tearing hurry to have your say, either. Once he is through, he’s sure to give you an equally good hearing!

Avoid making gossipy or snide remarks: To begin with, it’s an ugly and cruel habit. Again, you never know how you may be quoted or misquoted. If you persist in being catty about others, the others are not going to spare either.

This can lead to the breaking of friendships and you will also acquire a reputation of being a nasty gossip. People will, naturally, hesitate to open up before you.

Steer clear of making controversial statements: These are only going to spark off a round of heated debate. Somehow, arguments have a way of getting out of hand, to eventually leave nothing but unpleasant memories in the minds of all concerned.

As far as possible, avoid discussing touchy issues, like religion or language, unless you’re very close to the people you’re talking to. Many promising relationships can be nipped in the bud by tactless remarks made to causal acquaintances.

Take an interest in a variety of subjects: This does not mean that you have to be a walking encyclopedia. All that is necessary is that you be familiar with current affairs, know a bit about TV, music, sports, books or magazine. Acquire a working knowledge on popular subjects, like gardening, fashion and crafts. In any case, try not to look bewildered even when the subject being discussed is not the one you are familiar with: Conversely, don’t pretend to a deep knowledge of it, either! Also read the post Intellectual grooming.

When you are among friends, tune yourself to an interesting mix of mutually enjoyable conversation and earn the reputation for being a pleasant company.

Avoid being an “I-specialist”: No doubt, everything that happens to you seems fascinating to yourself or your family. It need not, necessarily, be so to the other person.

Gauge the interests of the person you are speaking to: Try to adapt your conversation according to the interests of the person you are conversing with. It would be ridiculous to talk about your computer animation course to someone who hasn’t the foggiest notion about such things, unless of course he himself is curious to know.

Never ask prying questions: Taking a genuine interest in what the other person says or does, is not the same as asking indiscreetly prying questions to satiate your curiosity. Nothing could be worse than asking a spinster girl, “Why haven’t your married?”, or a married woman, “How do you get along with your in-laws?” or “Why haven’t you conceived yet?”

NEVER ask a person about his handicap or draw attention to an obvious weakness. This is not only being rude, but very insensitive as well.

Listen attentively to an anecdote or a joke: When someone shares a story or a joke, hear him out calmly without an impatient look on your face – as if you were just waiting for him to finish so that you could trot out a joke or story of your own. Even if you have heard the joke or story before, don’t ruin it for the narrator by revealing the punch line, or saying, “I have heard this before.”

Don’t argue over trifles: Every small thing need not be blown up into a matter of prestige. There’s no harm in tactfully agreeing with basically irrelevant things like, which TV serial is the best. Being overcritical will gain nothing but instant irritation, whereas being pleasantly pliable, over tiny matters, can earn you goodwill and a reputation for being pleasant.

Be a good listener, tactful and reasonably well-informed and see the crowd gather around the charming you!

Contributed by Vina L.

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