July 25, 2014

How to Improve Your Conversation Skills

Small but significant improvements such as getting good conversation starters can noticeably enhance your social life. However, it’s important to realize that they’re not in and of themselves a complete solution.

Working as a communication coach, one thing that became obvious to me is that most people who could benefit from learning how to start a conversation effectively also have other sticking points in the area of conversation skills they need to address.

Once they learn how to start a conversation, they need to learn how to keep it going, how to make small talk, how to express themselves authentically or how to create a connection with others. They often need to work on their conversation skills as a whole.

If this is the case for you, it’s time to consider going beyond conversation starters and figuring out the best ways to improve your conversation skills. Here are the methods I believe to be the most helpful:

1. Go Out, Get Social

It’s tempting to search for ways to improve your conversation skills that don’t demand engaging in conversations with people, so that when you do engage, you impress them with your masterful conversation skills from the get go.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. In order to improve your conversation skills, the single most important thing you can do is to go out more and socialize more.

Your ability to make masterful conversation develops through persistent practice more than anything else. As you meet people, initiate conversations and always seek to make better conversation, you slowly but surely improve in this area.

2. Model Good Conversationalists

Another thing that will help you immensely is to study the conversational style of successful conversationalists. The key idea here is not to clone them, but to pick bits and pieces from their conversational mannerisms and implement them in your own conversational style.

You can start by analyzing charismatic characters in movies or books from the comfort of your own home, but eventually you need to study real-life individuals with good conversational skills from a close proximity. Modeling these persons will provide a huge benefit for you.

3. Learn Principles and Techniques

An entire industry exists that’s focused on helping people become better conversationalists and enrich their social life. Some of the ideas popularized in this industry are hooey, but some of them have a lot of value and work wonders in practice.

There is no point in reinventing the wheel when others have done a lot of the work for you. The least you can do is to pick up a few good books on the topics of conversation skills, learn specific principles and techniques and put them into practice. If you want more, consider courses and training on this topic.

4. Have a System for Practice

There are two reasons why many people fail at improving their conversation skills: they either apply corny and ineffective ideas, or they don’t have a system to practice and make progress.

This second point means that people will pick a few tips, practice them a few times and then give up. You need a better approach to see visible improvements in the way you converse with others. You need to pick specific improvements goals for yourself, to set daily practice activities and to do these activities.

More than anything else, you want to act more than you read, and you want to do it methodically. Your skills develop by taking massive action in small, logical steps. If you want to move from using good conversation starters to charming people conversationally, this is the mindset you want to be in.

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