What makes a brilliant conversationalist?

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Most people think a brilliant conversationalist is someone who’s effortlessly gregarious and engaging. Of course these are marvellous attributes, but perhaps they are only part of the story. 

For example, some people are natural talkers but poor listeners. Others are happy to take centre stage in a discussion but have an unwitting tendency to take control of it and – as a consequence – tend to suppress other people’s contribution.

So we can broaden the definition of a consummate conversationalist to mean someone who:

  • can communicate on other people’s wavelength, regardless of age or rank
  • is excellent at difficult and challenging conversations
  • doesn’t dominate conversations at the expense of other people’s contribution
  • is empathetic and allows people to feel fully heard
  • understands when to listen and when to provide solutions
  • takes responsibility for their own views and opinions
  • is able to apologise when they’ve made a mistake
  • understands when a conversation needs space to flow, and when to close it down
  • doesn’t get overly defensive or aggressive, especially under pressure
  • encourages people to come up with their own solutions
  • can have conversations that drive clarity, accountability and action
  • picks up the subtext of a conversation rather than focusing solely on the content
  • is good in small-talk situations and can bring humour to any conversation
  • stays centred in high-pressure conversations and isn’t thrown off-balance
  • negotiates effectively so that people’s respective needs get met
  • can consistently get a conversation back on track when it’s heading for the rocks

Bearing in mind the stresses of work, the demands of parenthood and the up’s and down’s of our relationships, we all fall impossibly short in some aspect of this list on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. But we can all improve, and daily life provides endless opportunities to practice.

Drawing on each other’s experience, www.conversationexpert.com aims to help you develop your skills so that you are more consistently able to have rewarding and effective conversations.

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