What makes someone a great conversationalist?
Over the years, I’ve met people in different social contexts. Schools form the main bulk of my social connections. Networking events are pockets of experiences for me as a business undergraduate. Travelling gives me tiny windows of interactions with people of different cultures.
When I meet people who’re great conversationalists, we would click right away and our chemistry is off the charts — the kind of conversation where an hour feels like a minute.
Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also been in conversations where it is based on mono-syllabic responses. These conversations would either fade off or turn into a monologue. At this juncture, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the moments I’ve had with great conversationalists.
Having experienced two very contrasting types of conversational settings, I thought to myself: “Why are some people better at holding conversations than others?”
5 Qualities a Great Conversationalist Has
Having great conversational skills is essential in today’s world. They unlock paths to job opportunities, amazing friendships, and even unforgettable life experiences.
There are no hard and fast rules to be a great conversationalist but these are qualities I’ve noticed over the course of my interactions with people from various walks of life.
Without further ado, here are five qualities:
1. Have Genuine Interests in the Person
People who converse well are also people who want to know who you are. They adopt a Dora the explorer mindset and frame their perspective around questions such as, “What does this person like to do?”, “What is he/she thinking?” or “What motivates them in life?”.
These are hints to help them navigate the conversation by shifting the other person under the spotlight. Great conversationalists enter into a conversation with the sole purpose of wanting to understand the person.
The same effect that motivational speeches have on firing us up for a greater cause of action, a great conversationalist with the aforementioned purpose is able to demonstrate genuine interests in everyone they speak to.
I know to even will this innate quality sounds like an easy statement to pass rather than do it. But think of it this way, we speak to people whom we’re interested in.
Reset any preconception that you may have about the person based on the first impressions they’ve left on you and start filling your mind with interest-based questions as mentioned above.
2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
A great conversationalist keeps the conversation buoyant instead of anchoring it down. They don’t nitpick on every little detail in your sentences and use it as an opportunity to churn them into a fireball to attack you. They also wouldn’t turn into a heated argument where they harbor “I’m right, you’re wrong” kind of conceptions.
There’s nothing combative or the need to be defensive when speaking to a great conversationalist. The one thing they’re good at is making you feel at home where you’re comfortable sharing just about anything under the sun.
Even if the conversation stumbles upon a topic that elicits opinions, it’ll be a talk where yours and their ideas are aired. They will acknowledge your opinion and give their 2-cents amicably.
As with most interactions I’ve had with great conversationalists, they leave the discussion to be opened with food for thoughts at the end.
3. Give Praises Lavishly
They’re anything but generous in making the other person feel good about themselves. This is not the same as being pretentious but giving credits when credits are due. Albeit they’re aware of their awesome conversational skills, good conversationalists understand that there’re lots to learn beyond their knowledge.
They like to let the person they speak to flourish in his/her own ways while putting lesser attention on themselves. Akin to a lamp oil that guides a sailboat out of a pitch dark tunnel, great conversationalists are your guide.
As the author of the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie put it:
“Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise, and people will cherish your words and treasure them and repeat them over a lifetime — repeat them years after you have forgotten them.”
4. 50–50 Sharing
I never felt like I was oversharing nor bored to the core whenever I engage in discussions with great conversationalists. They understand that this is not a campaign nor a presentation where they ramble on for hours. Instead, they draw you into the conversation just as much as they speak — a give and take concept.
They share about their side of the story after hearing yours and they are sensitive enough to pose you questions that relate to the topic the both of you are in.
More importantly, they help to keep the conversation exciting and light-hearted by being non-invasive.
5. Be Emotionally Sensitive
A topic such as past traumas is never on their list. Instead, they discuss your likes. Your future goals. Your favourite hobbies. Great conversationalists understand that bringing up a negative topic would only leave the person upset and therefore, that is the last thing they’d do.
They adopt a forward-thinking mindset — one that spurs lesser complaints and offers more solutions.
Okay… Maybe I’m exaggerating on the fact that great conversationalists treat negative topics (topics that trigger negative emotions) as taboos. It’s okay to talk about it once in a while. After all, it’s only human nature to feel.
Great conversationalists initiate such emotional topics only when the person has shown his/her willingness to lay it out on the table. They’re able to deduce the person’s body language, tone, and whether or not the topic that’s currently being discussed might lead to a serious and more emotional one. When that happens, they listen with empathy and speak only when necessary to comfort the other person.
Being empathetic appeals to their warm side and makes it safe for you to confide in them.
There are definitely many other qualities that make someone a great conversationalist but the ones mentioned here are a few common traits I’ve seen based on my realm of experience.
I hope this article offers you some tips and tricks that you can apply to your daily conversations.
Thank you for reading!