When You Feel You’re Losing at Conversation

Waging a battle of one-upmanship is a surefire way to lose at a good conversation. Dominating talkers who turn a chat into a competition won’t demonstrate their superiority; they only leave listeners feeling oppressed and understandably irritated. Skilled conversationalists make us feel good because they are interested. What we say matters to them, and they’re adept at showing it. People who are skilled at conversation listen, ask questions and actively respond to the answers. Keep reading to uncover the habits of the good conversationalist. Learning to be a better conversationalist comes down to these 5 things:

They’re not trying to win.

Talkers who are in it to win it will continuously interrupt and repeatedly steer the conversation back to themselves. Tell them you got a job and they’ll brag about their promotion. If your child won a part in the school play, their child got the lead. If your family is headed to the lake for the weekend, they’re going to Cabo. Listeners end up feeling diminished and de-valued after a bout with the competitive conversationalist.

Good conversationalists are happy to allow the other guy a turn. They’ve learned the art of give and take, and they won’t try to make the conversation only about themselves. They look at the conversation as a chance to learn something about others. They don’t need to be right all the time.

They ask questions.

Their questions are not limited to “How was your day?” or “Where are you from?” The good conversationalist may open with the standards but will move on quickly from small talk or gossip to questions that encourage listeners to think. What’s their opinion on plans to build a toll bridge over the county’s pristine river? Will the state legislature legalize medicinal marijuana? Was bringing Picard back to Star Trek a good idea? Remember to listen to their opinion; it’s likely not the right time to start a debate.

Questions show that you are interested in your conversation partner. Good questions go a long way toward making a conversation engaging. There’s research that suggests those who ask questions are viewed more favorably than those who don’t.

They listen actively.

Good conversationalists engage with their conversation partners. They hear answers to their questions and they paraphrase what they’ve heard back to the speaker. “So you don’t think a toll bridge would make much of an environmental impact? How do you feel about taxpayers shouldering the cost of maintenance?”

They stay off the phone.

They understand that checking their phone during conversations is just plain rude. How important is their conversation partner if they can’t keep away from the phone while the other guy is talking?

They don’t trap listeners by pulling out the phone to show off a gazillion pictures of their first grandchild. They know one or two photos are fine, and who would blame a proud first-time grandparent for bragging? But forcing a review of 20 or 30 pictures is close to creating an awkward situation.

They keep it short.

Long stories about themselves are the specialty of conversation hogs. It’s another hostage situation as their monologue delivers every trite detail. Good conversationalists set a timer on themselves and are mindful not to run on too long. Another conversation killer is the person who delivers an unending rant about a topic everyone else would just as soon avoid.

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