One of the main problems with poor conversationalists is that they don’t volley back to the person to whom they’re talking. Sharing about yourself when asked is entirely appropriate, but detailing your own biography over a cocktail hour is not only rude and unbecoming, but also quite boring. Here are three ways to make sure you’re inciting good, upbeat conversation that keeps the other person feeling important and interested as well.
1. Ask Great Questions
Conversations usually start with standard openers: “How are you?”, “How’s work?”, “How is your new house?…” just to name a few. When you answer these friendly questions, do a quick mental check-in with yourself. Have you exceeded a few minutes and are now going on and on about your annoying boss or the leaky pipes in your new home? Remember that most questions are asked out of courtesy, so unless your dishing your woes over drinks with your BFF, keep it short, on point, and ask better questions in return. For example, try asking about suggestions for vacation spots or good restaurants to check out in your neighborhood. This kind of more specific inquiry will likely set the tone for an exchange of stories, which is usually a better, livelier way to get to know someone.
2. Keep an Upbeat Tone
Remember that when someone asks “How have you been?” it’s usually a greeting and not a literal question. This especially applies if you’re at a party, cocktail hour or formal dinner with acquaintances rather than best friends. Even if your day was pretty darn dreadful, talking about your sick cat, broken down car, or unfortunate commute home from work will send your listeners looking for a way out of the conversation with you. Keep it light and short, and if you can work in a funny story, then by all means make ‘em laugh.
3. Avoid Over Bragging
Your accomplishments and the things you’re proudest of are wonderful to include in a good conversation, but don’t take it overboard. Of course people will be happy to hear that you got your big promotion and, as a result, were able to pay off student loans and get yourself that new car you always wanted. But leave it at that. They probably don’t need to hear how everyone at work adores you, that you rub elbows with celebrities, or that your new bag is Fendi, your shoes are Jimmy Choo, and you just ate the most amazing grass-fed organic steak at “Per Se” yesterday. Coupling good news with modesty is key.
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