“What a great conversation...”
I'd hear that phrase often as my parents rescued me from my indifferent babysitter. I didn't care much for the after-dinner party debrief, but I'd remember being fascinated by the art of the conversation. Oddly though, try as they might, they could never seem to remember what this great conservation had involved.
Conversation was once an essential skill, one that could open doors, turn heads and change minds. These days, it appears to be an art in decline. The much-maligned millennials appear more focused on tweets, shout-outs and texts and maybe that's the way conversation is going.
However, as the old adage goes, in the kingdom of the blind, it's a good idea to have an eye-patch. As the art of the conversation dwindles, those precious few who still 'have it' will find themselves in demand.
Good skills never die. They are always valuable and if the current fad is to ignore one in particular it only serves to make that skill niche. Another word for niche is specialist.
If you'd like to become a future specialist, here are some top tips on mastering the art of great conversation.
The reason my parents could scarcely remember what their favourite conversationalist had said, was because it's likely the person in question spent more time listening than speaking. By listening we learn about our conversation partners and allowing them room to express themselves will warm them. We live in a breakneck speed world and it's often hard to get a word in at the best of times. Imagine the freedom to not only speak freely but the joy of another person paying actual attention. It's a recipe for success straight out of Delia's book.
Keep yourself out of the story:
Sure you might think your version of events was more exciting, but be careful of inadvertently being drawn into a game of competitive one-upmanship. If you think you want to throw in your own anecdote, take a breath, count to three and try and imagine if the roles were reversed... Good, now shut up and see the paragraph above.
Don't be that guy/gal:
If you don't know something, put your hand up. Don't blag it. Having the confidence to admit you don't know everything is not only endearing, it's disarming.
Know the signs:
You won't need Tarot cards or tea leaves to work out if the conversation is going well, welcomed or has maybe run its course. Look for obvious signs. If you're coming into a conversation, look at your prospect's feet. If you're approaching a group whose feet are all facing tightly in toward each other, you'll be interrupting. Conversely, if their feet are open and splayed apart there's an opening. Look for other signs too. During a conversation, look for crossed arms, poor eye contact and resistance. If you detect a lack of attention or heightened distraction, it's maybe time to wind it up.
Read a book:
Books are full of ideas and situational gold. The well-read are scant short of things to say and the better read the better.
So there you have it. The fastest niche induction on the web and all for the price of five minutes of your attention. The truth is, of course, the art of the conversationalist will never die, it will only ever become more valuable.