The art of making conversation

The art of making conversation

When Harsh moved to Bangalore, one weekend, his friend Akash invited him to a party. Harsh did not know anybody there except for the host, who was busy welcoming guests.

He picked up his drink and stood in a corner. Though he wanted to go and make friends with others, he was not confident. Feeling shy, he got caught up in his internal monologue.

“I am new here, intruding, boring, not able to converse. If I talk to others, I may be wasting their time. Others might make fun of me. They all know each other, so may avoid me. I am not so important. What will they think about me?’’

Isn’t this a familiar situation with many of us? This kind of a situation makes a person feel nervous and speechless. One becomes self-conscious. If one does not overcome these feelings, he/she will be left alone. He may not be able to make friends and engage in a conversation. Nobody is going to judge you and do not let any thought disturb you. Let’s learn the art of conversation.

Introducing yourself

If you do not know the person you want to talk to, walk up to him/her and introduce yourself. Say your name, that’s enough for the beginning and extend your hand for a shake. If it is a woman, you may join your hands for a greeting because you may not know whether she likes to shake hands. Or just say, “namaste,” and do it with a smile. Let the other person tell his/her name and say something more.

When you meet someone for the first time, keep the conversation simple because both of you are trying to establish rapport and want to engage in light talk. Do not ask a closed question. Ask an open question.

Closed questions include: “It is! Are you? Do you? Will you? Have you?

Answer to all these questions will be a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. And it will bring you back to where you started. And, you have to ask another question to keep the conversation going.
The following are examples of a closed conversation:

- Nice earrings
- Will you like to drink something?

Open question

This kind of question requires a detailed answer, an explanation for an answer and it does not end with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.

Open questions are, “When did you? What are you? How are you? Which all places have you seen here?

Answers to all these questions will be in explanation. So ask open questions to engage the other person in conversation. It oils the conversation to keep it going.

For example, “How long have you been in Bangalore? Which are  the best schools in Bangalore? Which are the good picnic spots around this city?

Now the person will give you a detailed answer. And you can ask more questions related to it. But if you say, “Are there any good picnic spots around this city?” The answer will be, “Yes, plenty.”  The conversation ends here.  

Now that you have already asked a question and the other person has been put to talking, follow his/her cue to keep the conversation going. Listen carefully and actively, and keep showing interest in the talk. To keep the conversation warm and cheerful, say the person’s name now and then. Make short statements like these, “Is it? Oh, I see, amazing, Wow, What happened after that?” Or nod and say, “Oh, hmmm,” to encourage the person.

Stay interested in the conversation. Remember each time you feel there is something similar to both of you, the connections with the person is established. You realise the worth of the conversation.

If the other person appears to be not interested in the conversation, leave him/her alone and move on.

Conversing in a group

If you are meeting a group for the first time, you can always say, “Hi folks! I am a first-time visitor here.” or “Hi, my name is… I am meeting you all for the first time. Can I join in the conversation?”

Or you could say, “Hi, I am ..., do you mind if I squeeze in?”

Never interrupt a conversation between two or more people. Wait for it to stop and then say something.

Always introduce a less important person to a more important person. Three things decides this.

- The person who is higher in status, professional standing, higher government official, president or CEO of a company

- A person older in age

- A woman always before man

Name the more important person first: “Mrs Gandhi, I’d like you to meet Miss Nupur. She is working with me at the bank. Nupur, she is the chair person of the Ladies Club.”

Young girls should stand up while being introduced to elders. Women should stand up to meet older women/ women higher in status/ older men. A man should always stand up to meet a woman or even if it is a man.

- Your speech should be clear and meaningful. Speak less and listen more. This will also take the focus off you and at the same time, you will be seen as a great conversationalist.

- You must think up a few topics before going to a party, they always come in handy

- Have a cursory knowledge of world affairs and news, local news and happenings

- Develop your sense of humour. Remember a few jokes or funny quotes — it makes  a conversation livelier

- To break the ice, give a compliment. But it should be genuine or look genuine. Everybody likes it

- If you want others to be interested in you, make yourself interesting by conversation

- Be positive and enthusiastic. Try discussing your problems and see how people start excusing themselves from you

 Don’t:

- Be negative, disrespectful, arrogant or the know-it-all type while talking to others

- Insult or use racial, religious, sexual orientation and gender slurs in front of others

- Boast about your riches or throw names in front of others

- Cut the conversation or change it to suit your likes or dislikes

- Use foul, dirty language or four-letter words. Do not use swear words

- Cut your partner in mid-sentence while he/she is talking

-Keep checking your mobile phone or texting during the conversation. It is the most insulting gesture

- Keep talking while sitting if the other person is standing and talking to you. This is bad manners. Whether the person is a junior or senior to you, if the talk has gone beyond a minute, stand up

- Look here or there when the other person is talking. Be interested in the conversation.If your eyes are drifting over the speaking partner, it shows a lack of interest

- During the conversation, if you have spotted any important person or your boss, do not leave abruptly. Excuse yourself and then leave

If you follow these tips, you will have no cause to say that you didn’t enjoy the party.

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