10 Guidelines for Successful Conversations
Background and Importance of Successful Conversations
As with everything in life, communicative exchange is governed by rules. Communication can be defined as “negotiating meaning”. People communicate to establish common knowledge, to give the same meaning to a specific subject. The more we know about communication, the better our communicative competence. This leads to a greater number of choices when communicating and a better understanding of other people’s behaviour. By improving one’s conversational skills, one will ultimately be able to understand and will be understood by people in any situation.
10 Guidelines for Successful Conversations
- Be Interested and Interesting Avoid a ‘here we go again’ mindset and try to listen to each conversational partner in a fresh way. Also become aware of what interests’ others and ask questions accordingly. Be open – you never know; you might be surprised.
- Listen to understand, not to hear
- When you listen you:
- Focus your attention on the verbal and non-verbal messages of the speaker
- Avoid focusing on distracting stimuli in the environment, and
- Focus your attention on what is being said and not on potential questions.
- Keep your mind on the speaker and avoid all mental activity that will take it away from the speaker’s point. Ask yourself questions to stay focused and interested:
- What point will the speaker propose next?
- What evidence has the speaker used to substantiate his ideas?
- What main ideas have been developed so far?
- What does the speaker’s non-verbal activity suggest?
- Is there congruence between the verbal and non-verbal communication?
- What conclusion will the speaker most likely reach?
- Use Repair Strategies
Conversations do not always run smoothly. There are often misunderstandings, interruptions and problems with expression of ideas and so on. When breaks in communication occur, the speaker has to repair them. Different repair strategies may include:
- Repeat the sentence BUT change the wording; stress the important facts, etc. Do not only repeat the sentence.
- If you realize that you are too technical, rephrase by lowering the level of information.
- If the person does not understand you, go back to the beginning. It may be, because you did not establish his/her level of familiarity with the topic and you are losing him/her. In this case, you will have to go back and explain the basics.
- Be Friendly and Cheerful
Nothing kills conversation like criticism. Friendliness, cheerfulness and humour on the other hand bring out the best in people. Teach yourself to see the humour in situations.
- Don’t Act Superior
Even if you are very confident in a situation, avoid acting superior. Communication is a two-way process and the best speakers are often the best listeners as well.
- Be Animated and Enthusiastic
Use vitality, energy and enthusiasm. This does not mean that you have to adapt your style completely, just be as enthusiastic as possible within the realm of your communication style. Enthusiasm is a characteristic that all successful communicators have in common.
- Be Flexible
Flexibility can be your biggest asset. The ability to flex and adapt to your conversational partner is a trademark of a good communicator. Start by evaluating your own style and become aware of other communication styles. How can you adapt your communication style to include your conversational partner?
- Don’t be Dogmatic
Keep an open mind and avoid generalisation. When you have to make a point, be diplomatic. Also, remember that it is rude to monopolise a conversation – it doesn’t matter how strongly you feel about the topic.
- Don’t Mumble and be Long Winded
Focus on the clarity of your speech. If you mumble, listeners will be preoccupied with figuring out what you are trying to say. The content will then have no real impact. It is also important to remember that being concise is an art. A few well-chosen words can have a bigger impact than a long lecture.
- Be Tactful and Empathetic
All people respond to warmth. If you treat people well, you will benefit from interaction and achieve the results you want. Be sensitive towards your conversational partner’s feelings, beliefs and culture.
Reflection Statement: The more we know about communication, the better our communicative competence. This leads to a greater number of choices when communicating and a better understanding of other people’s behaviour. By improving one’s conversational skills, one will ultimately be able to understand and will be understood by people in any situation.