If you want better relationships at home, at work, at school – you need to get better at communicating. Brisbane Counsellor Corey Human suggests ways to help you develop the art of good conversation – and relationships!
Although people communicate daily, effective communication is not always easy.
The Business Dictionary gives the following definition of communication,
“Two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants not only exchange (encode-decode) information, news, ideas and feelings but also create and share meaning. In general, communication is a means of connecting people or places”.
Good communication skills are not just important in the business world, but also critical to developing and maintaining healthy relationships in adolescence and adulthood.
Human interaction starts and is sustained by means of communication, and meaningful conversations form the basis of all friendship and romantic relationships. The ability to communicate effectively is critical for a person’s social success (Laugeson, 2013, p. 51).
How to Master the Art of Good Conversation
Given the importance of communication in relationships, here are a few guidelines to help you master the art of good conversation:
- Trade information – Conversation is about sharing information; therefore a good conversation is one where information is exchanged. In such a context, the one person tells the other something about him, and in return the other responds by telling something about himself (Laugeson, 2013, p. 54). A good conversation generally has equal information sharing 50-50, sometimes it can be 40-60 or 60-40 depending on the circumstances – however each person in the conversation should feel he has equal opportunity to share his information (Chua, N.D.).
- Find common interests – The goal of any good conversation is for the participants to find a common interest to talk about. For a conversation to be interesting, the parties involved need common ground to keep things flowing. A common interest is an important building block for conversation – and a friendship (Laugeson, 2013, p. 54 & 55).
- Ask the person about themselves – In the communication process, the normal way to exchange information is by asking the other person questions about themselves, and sharing related information about yourself (Laugeson, 2013, p. 57). If you want to master the art of good conversation, it is essential to be genuinely interested in the person you are talking to – people are quick to realise if you are not genuinely interested in them or their topic of conversation. When asking questions, make sure the questions have a purpose (Chua, N.D.).
- Listen – Some people with social challenges struggle with listening skills. One of the biggest problems with this is that the person you are talking to might get the impression that you are not interested in them or the discussion. Ask yourself: What are my verbal and non-verbal messages and how do people perceive them? (Laugeson, 2013, p. 64). Counsellors are able to help people who struggle in this area, to become more aware of their listening skills, and how to use them correctly in conversation. Part of a counsellor’s training is to be able to listen – and to help others learn to listen with understanding and purpose.
- Eye contact – It is just as important to look at the person you are talking to, as it is to look away for short periods of time so that you do not end up staring at them while they are talking. Again, a counsellor can help by teaching good use of eye contact in counselling sessions (Laugeson, 2013, p. 65).
- Build the other person up – In your conversation, always look for ways to make the other person look and feel good – don’t be afraid to praise where praise is due. There are many people today who do not recognise their own abilities, so try to help people you talk to become aware of their own ability and strengths (Chua, N.D.).
- Good body boundaries – Be aware of personal space. Standing too close or too far away from the person you are in conversation with, can create an awkward feeling. A general rule is to stand about an arm’s length away from the person you are talking to; if in doubt, a counsellor can provide feedback on these issues without causing embarrassment (Laugeson, 2013, p. 67).
- Respect, do not criticise or judge – In your conversation respect each other’s point of view. It is acceptable to air your opinion, but in the process do not force it onto the person you are talking to. Respect for each other’s choices and opinions without criticising or judging is important to ensure you have a good and meaningful conversation. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and point of view (Chua, N.D.).
Good Conversation: What Not To Do!
Just as there are some important aspects to remember to “do”, there are also some important “don’ts” to consider if you want to become more skilled in conversation.
- Don’t be a conversation hog – One of the biggest social challenges in conversation is when one party dominates, and doesn’t give others the opportunity to speak (Laugeson, 2013, p. 69). Remember to listen!
- Don’t become an interviewer – Although it’s important to ask questions, if one person is constantly asking without also giving some answers in response to his own questions, it can make the other person feel like they are being interrogated. It becomes a one-way conversation style, and both parties sruggle to find common links on which they can build a friendship (Laugeson, 2013, p. 71).
- Don’t repeat yourself – Beware not to become “hyper focused” on topics that interest you. And, take care not to repeat yourself often as this could lead to the listener losing interest in the conversation (Laugeson, 2013, p. 73).
- Do not be too personal in your first conversation – Be careful not to share too much personal and private information during your initial conversation with a person (Laugeson, 2013, p. 75).
To be able to have a proper meaningful conversation takes skill, practice and sometimes even guidance.
Become aware of yourself and your conversation style, keep these conversation guidelines in mind, and if you struggle to make real meaningful conversations, make an appointment with a counsellor to help you with mastering the art of good conversation.
Corey Human has nearly 20 years’ experience in providing counselling to adolescents, adults, couples, parents and families in both English and Afrikaans. In relationship counselling and education, his aim is to empower each couple with the tools to help themselves when they get to points of conflict in their relationship.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129
- Business Dictionary, Communication. http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/communication.html
- Chua, C. N.D. 10 Rules of a Great Conversationalist. https://personalexcellence.co/blog/conversation/
- Laugeson, E. A. (2013). The science of making friends: Helping socially challenged teens and young adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.