How to Be a Great Conversationalist

Five Methods:Ask QuestionsBe AttentiveKnow When To Speak and When to ListenBe PreparedStick to the Topic

Successful people are dynamic communicators. If you want to become a dynamic communicator, you need to master three things. You must become a great conversationalist. You must learn to write clearly and succinctly. You must be able to present effectively – to groups of two or 200. You have to be aware of your audience and here are five steps that can have you do just that.

Method 1
Ask Questions

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    He who asks the questions controls the conversation, it has been said. Of course, you do not want to ask a string of yes or no questions like, "Is your name Sarah?" or "Hot enough for you?"
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    Open-Ended. Ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation running smoothly. Questions like, "Wow, you're a professor? What does it feel like being on the opposite end of academia?" will keep the conversation from dying too quickly. People love to talk about themselves. Giving people an "open mic," so to speak, will keep them comfortably conversing.
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    How, What and Why. It is important to know what you are talking about or what your audience is interested in when trying to present your conversation, so you need to know How it happened, what it is about, and why you explaining this.

Method 2
Be Attentive

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    Nothing will kill a conversation faster than an inattentive listener. The second your eyes begin to dart around the room or you eyes begin to glaze over, you have sent a signal to your conversation partner that what they have to say is unimportant and boring. Contrary to popular belief, it is evident when a listener begins to lose interest.
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    Eye Contact. Maintain eye contact and give your partner physical and verbal cues while listening to them. Nod your head and maintain eye contact. At least look like you're interested to what their opinion is.
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    Pay Attention to what you are saying. Looking around the room may signal to your partner that you are looking for somebody better to talk to.

Method 3
Know When To Speak and When to Listen

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    Some people just love to hear themselves talk. There is, however, a time and place for that. If you have a friend who is coming to you with a problem, more than likely they simply want a sounding board.
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    Try to listen to their problems or questions. They want a chance to vent. In times like this, listen and speak when it is appropriate. Try to refrain from “outdoing” their story with a similar story from your own past. In other words, anything that begins, “Oh, you think THAT’S bad, wait until you hear what happened to ME,” should be avoided at all costs.

Method 4
Be Prepared

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    It is important that you keep abreast of world news to help ease yourself into conversations. Reading just a few articles in major publications or scanning your local morning newspaper will help you to maintain a running list of interesting topics to discuss. You never know whom you may meet and what topic may come up in conversation.
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    Keep Yourself Organized. It is just a nightmare to give a speech and lose all your information on what you’re going to say. Remember to keep your speech somewhere you’ll remember where it is and take organized notes.
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    Have yourself ready for any question. Be ready for anything. It would seem like you are informal or unprepared if someone asks you a question that you are blank about what you reply. Just remember, there are many types of people who might ask off the wall questions so find a way to answer them, no matter what they are.

Method 5
Stick to the Topic

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    When conversing with somebody, do your best to make the conversation flow naturally. In other words, stick to the topic they are discussing until a clear tangent is made into another topic altogether. This can often be difficult to do because certain words or phrases can trigger our mind to think of something else. For example, if a friend is telling you about how “chilly” it was at their brother’s wedding the previous weekend, we may start to think about that “chili” we had two weeks ago and want to start discussing that. Refrain from internal distractions.
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    Find ways to keep your listener(s) entertained. Some speakers try too hard in their speeches, which draws their listeners to a bore. If you want to keep them entertained, try to make your speech fun, but formal when needed. Try to throw a joke or 2 in there and make it worthy of listening to.


  • Be positive. Negative talk will make you a negative person. (YIKES! We don't want that to happen, do we?)
  • Look for visual signs. If you see any eye rolling, clock watching, foot tapping - you've overstepped your bounds and more than likely your time limit.
  • Silence is golden. Just as a pause is important in music - so is a bit of silence in a conversation. Give others an opportunity to jump right in.
  • Don't preach or take yourself too seriously. Do not dwell on moral issues.
  • Be interested in the other person. Be attentive. Ask them questions. Draw them out.
  • Always be in good humor. No matter what!
  • Stick to the topic at hand and roll with it.
  • You don't have to be right. No, really - you don't.
  • Be tactful, alert and sympathetic.
  • A conversation is not a monologue. Limit yourself to 4 sentences or 40 seconds, whichever comes FIRST.
  • Do not offer advice. Hello, did anyone ask you for your opinion?
  • Don't tell jokes unless you are truly skilled at it.


  • Don’t EVER make racist comments (especially around people of a different race)
  • Don't be a conversation hog. This makes you look selfish.
  • Make conversations two-sided, not one-sided
  • Sometimes your audience can be stubborn and not want to hear what you say so try to keep them at your attention with and interesting speak
  • If you feel nervous just picture the audience in their underpants (works every time)

Article Info

Categories: Manual Communication