Conversation Tips – Be Interested, Not Interesting

Conversation was once considered to be one of the most highly-prized skills a man or woman of good breeding could have.  In Ancient Rome it was the primary subject taught to nobles in school.  Sadly, this is no longer the case. If you’ve been on any number of dates, you’ll know that the average person’s conversation skills lag far behind those of your cat.

The truth is that even if you are good looking, wealthy and well-dressed, you don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell if you can’t hold up your end of a conversation.  What most people don’t understand is that holding a good conversation doesn’t mean having a lot of interesting things to say – it means making the other person feel like they are being interesting.

Here are five tips for being a great conversationalist:

  1. Establish dominance – This doesn’t mean what you think.  It means figure out, as early as possible, whether your date is someone who likes to hear themself speak, or whether they are the kind of person who will simply stop talking because they’ve run out of things to say, or because you’re not talking. You need to be able to play both parts, in either situation.
  2. Don’t tell a story, ask a question – If there’s a momentary lull in conversation, don’t fill it with a story or anecdote.  There’s a chance that the other person will respond in kind, but there’s also a good chance that it will result in yet another awkward silence as soon as you’re done talking.
  3. Give ‘validation’ – This means that if you are dominant in the conversation, make the other person feel like what they are saying is important.  Ask questions, deferring to their expertise on a subject.  This will make them feel interesting, and not as if you know more about everything than they do.
  4. Don’t try to one-up them --  Nobody likes a story-topper, but the tendency to tell a bigger, better, more impressive story of the same ilk that you’ve just heard is strong in most people.  If you’re with your drinking buddies it is fine, but if you’re trying to impress on a date, it’ll just make you look like a lout.
  5. Make the conversation your responsibility-- Your date might be a great conversationalist as well, or they might not.  Regardless of which they are, it’s in your best interest to take an active role in keeping the conversation flowing and to move it on when it starts to stall.  This takes a lot of practice, and is one of the most difficult social skills to learn.

You probably won’t get it right first time, but if you follow the above advice, you’ll start to pick up a few tricks that you can use at any time.  Just remember the maxim: Be interested, not interesting!