Merriam-Webster online says that a conversationalist is one who converses a great deal or who excels in conversation. Discount the first part of the statement. Someone who talks a lot (or a great deal) makes a dreadful conversationalist. So, then, what does it take to excel in conversation? What does it take to be considered a strong conversationalist?

Psychologists make great conversationalists. The very nature of the therapeutic, counseling relationship mandates that the therapist keeps the discussion “all about you,” all about the client. As a result of this high-intensity listening, sometimes a client experiences transference, a phenomenon whereby a client transfers the positive feelings that surface during the therapy session directly on to the therapist. In plain-speak, at times a client thinks he is in love with his counselor.

A strong conversationalist, like a good psychologist, understands the technical components that make up communication. These straightforward concepts appear in every speech class or Toastmaster’s seminar, and they are designed to make the other person feel comfortable when engaging in conversation.

(1).   Make eye contact (don’t stare at the other person’s shoes)
(2).   Speak clearly and audibly (don’t mumble or whisper)
(3).   Maintain a good pace (don’t race to the finish or talk so slowly the other person falls asleep)
(4.)   Use words the listener understands (don’t talk over or under the head of the listener)

However, great conversationalists comprehend the psychological elements of communication, too.

(5).   Stick to the topic (don’t jump into a conversation only to twist it and make it all about you)
(6).   Stay interested on what’s being said (don’t be thinking about what you’re going to say next)
(7).   Ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation moving (don’t ask Yes or No questions, but rather “So why did you…?” or “What do you think about…?” questions)
(8).   Listen more, talk less (don’t believe that you are more interesting than the person you’re talking with)

So why did I mention psychologists and the “clients who love them”? If you want others to fall in love with your conversation skills, you don’t need a Harvard degree on your wall. You just have to be willing to apply some simple practices to take your conversation skills to the next level. And if eight tips are too many to remember, just remember this: Make it all about the other person.

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