Last Updated on March 13, 2023 by Eileen Conroy, MSc
Conversation skills and personal growth go hand in hand. The better you are at communicating with others, the easier it is to show the world who you are, get what you need and give what you have to offer. Learning how to improve conversation skills is an essential component of any successful communicator.
In this article, we’ll go over the basics of communication and how to improve conversation skills. After trying some of these ideas, you may find that your communication with others begins to flow with ease. Keep reading if you want to benefit from nine tips and ideas on how to improve your ways of engaging in meaningful conversation.
What Are Conversation Skills?
Conversation skills include the ability to initiate, engage in, and propel a conversation . There are many aspects of conversation, including turn-taking and engagement.
Allowing someone to speak without interrupting them and asking meaningful questions show your speaking partner that you respect them and care about what they have to say. These skills are important because they allow us to learn, connect, and communicate.
How To Improve Conversation Skills – 9 Tips
These nine tips and ideas for improving conversation skills will help make each interaction flow with ease. Sometimes during conversations, your mind will go blank, and you run out of things to say. Instead of panicking and grasping for straws, these tips will show you how to improve your conversation skills so you can feel confident connecting with anyone.
#1 – Try the Spokes Method
This method grants you the ability to talk to anyone about anything. You can begin to understand the Spokes Method by visualizing a bicycle wheel. In the middle of the wheel is the hub and radiating out from the hub are the spokes. In a conversation, the hub is the topic. If the person you are conversing with brings up a topic you know nothing about, you can use the Spokes Method and talk around the topic.
For example, if your speaking partner brings up the fact that they watched the Kentucky Derby last night – that’s the topic (the hub of the wheel). If it’s one you don’t know much about, you can utilize the Spokes Method and mention other related topics like the big fancy hats people wear or how you used to ride horses (aka related topics or “the spokes”). You might also ask something like, “Who’s your favorite to win?” Or “Do you go to the racetrack often?” With the Spokes Method, you don’t necessarily need to know anything about the topic in order to signal conversational interest to the other person and have a fruitful dialogue.
#2 -Develop a Wide Range of Interests
When you have a wide range of interests, you can relate to a wider variety of people. If you spend the majority of your time studying the fashion of 16th-century England, you might have a difficult time coming up with something to talk about if your speaking partner doesn’t share your interest. It’s great to have a hobby you’re passionate about, but if you want to be a good conversationalist, you’re going to have to broaden your knowledge a bit.
Start diversifying your interests by listening to a new podcast, reading a current bestseller, or watching a TedTalk on YouTube. When you get curious about what’s out there, you’ll find that you always have something to talk about.
#3 – Play a Question Card Game
Sometimes the best way to spark conversation is through sharing in a bit of fun. A game where everyone gets a turn answering questions makes the conversation feel natural and easy. There are a few conversation-starter games out there that help take the guesswork out of getting to know someone. Question card games, in particular, are designed to help skip awkward small talk so you can quickly develop a comfortable camaraderie. The decks include questions like, “What are you thankful for at this very moment?”, “What makes you really feel alive?” and “How do you show love?”
#4 – Notice the Details
Someone with a knack for conversation often notices the details. They will see an interesting necklace the person is wearing or notice a picture of their dog on their phone’s lock screen. They are then able to bring these elements to the conversation to create more of a connection.
When you make a habit of noticing the details, you can also start giving meaningful compliments, which will further serve your communication. Excellent conversationalists pay attention to the speaker and are, therefore, able to look beyond the surface and make a connection that feels personal and meaningful.
#5 – Practice Nonviolent Communication
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is an approach that focuses on empathy during every interaction. NVC was developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg who also authored a popular Comprehensive Guide for using the method.
NVC helps us to express our needs and feelings without criticizing others. When we can compassionately interact with ourselves and each other, it lays the groundwork to begin building deep and meaningful connections. NVC turns our focus to our underlying needs and those of others as a way to understand what makes us tick as well as how observations instead of judgments can help us interact with one another.
#6 – Develop Your Readings Skills
Reading is the secret weapon of a good conversationalist. When you read a lot, you expand your vocabulary, which allows you to communicate in a more effective and precise way. Reading also helps expose you to dialogue and conversations between (e.g., fictional ) characters. This exposure helps you more easily form cohesive sentences and expands your ability to engage in different types of dialogue with people from a wide range of backgrounds.
When you read a lot, you also become aware of other perspectives and can begin recognizing your own limiting beliefs.
#7 – Pay Attention to Nonverbal Communication
People often communicate more with what they don’t say than with what they do. Becoming a body-language expert can help you understand certain nuances and nonverbal cues that can make or break a conversation.
Nonverbal cues are made up of many facets, including facial expressions, gestures, and posture. Facial expressions are the cornerstone of nonverbal communication, mostly because they are universal. We can look at someone’s face and gauge whether they are present and interested or bored and unengaged. At the same time, we can notice if their posture and gestures are stiff and uncomfortable or relaxed and open.
#8 – Use “Free” Information
People often give away little details of their lives while they are talking. When you pay attention, you can pick up on tidbits of useful information you can use to propel the conversation forward. This tactic helps you avoid the unnecessary path of trying to come up with things to say.
For example, if you find yourself in an elevator with a colleague, instead of bumbling around for a topic, listen and pay attention to any useful tidbits you can pick up on. Maybe you mentioned how nice of a day it is out, and they reply with, “Yeah, I’m saying a prayer that it keeps up, I’m hoping to go golfing this weekend.”
The “free” information was their mention of golf. They also mentioned saying a prayer, which could mean that they are religious or spiritual. From there, you can use the free information to propel the conversation forward.
#9 – Practice Makes Perfect
There’s nothing like practice to hone your conversation skills. This might be the most uncomfortable tip of all, but it’s incredibly effective. The best way to become an expert at something is to do it over and over again.
Use your new techniques to improve conversation skills and experiment on everyone you talk to. Try to incorporate one of these techniques into one conversation a day. You might be surprised how quickly your conversation skills rocket from rookie status to expert level.
The Bottom Line
Whether you want to improve a professional relationship, create a romantic one, or rebuild a personal one, such as a friendship, your conversation skills determine your chances of success. There are countless ways to improve conversation skills, and different people will click with different methods. The important thing is to be patient and flexible with yourself. Communication isn’t an easy thing to master, but with a few tips under your belt, you’ll know how to improve your conversation skills in no time.
Where To Go From Here?
If you are looking for more ways to improve conversation skills, check out this article about active listening skills. It introduces you to an incredibly important yet often overlooked aspect of communication that can make or break your relationships.
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