There’s an art to conversing with others. It is not enough to know how to skillfully strike up a discussion; you have to be able to keep others engaged, add interesting information, and otherwise avoid the habits of bad conversationalists. While some of us are naturals, others of us could use some help, including conversation tips that will make us more likable. There’s no shame in being part of the latter group; like any art form, it requires practice.
Broadcaster and writer Imogen Lloyd Webber offers assistance in her new book, The Intelligent Conversationalist: 31 Cheat Sheets That Will Show You How to Talk to Anyone About Anything, Anytime. By digging into numerous common subject areas, Lloyd Webber gives readers the background and resources they need to effectively discuss a range of issues. No matter how dry a topic may seem, she livens it up with her straightforward, tongue-in-cheek approach.
The Intelligent Conversationalist is as practical as it is hilarious. Lloyd Webber’s rundowns are useful in countless situations, from discussing how various religions differ to which infamous U.S. politicians have been embroiled in sex scandals. She has a lot to teach, and she makes her lessons fun.
Below are nine ways you can up your conversation game, no matter how skilled or not skilled you already are, based on The Intelligent Conversationalist.
1. Be Mindful Of Your Grammar
It is not just what you say that matters; it’s how you say it. Like it or not, grammar matters, and whether or not you use it properly can have a huge impact on how your conversation partners perceive your words. “Incorrect usage will automatically negate an opinion you opine,” writes Lloyd Webber.
2. Develop Background Knowledge On A Variety Of Topics
It is unrealistic to become an expert on every topic, but devoting a little effort to learning the basics of a variety of subject matters goes a long way. Lloyd Webber helps with just that in her book, giving a crash course in everything from arts to science to religion. She even provides talking points, memorable facts, useful arguments, and more.
3. Be Vague When You’re Unsure
If you find yourself discussing an issue you only have a loose grasp of, there is no need to panic. Use what you do know, but don’t feel obligated to be too specific. Lloyd Webber points out how useful a vague word like “recently” can be, and how you can preface an idea as simply being your opinion.
4. Find Tie-Ins With Familiar Topics
Another strategy for keeping yourself afloat when you feel out of your depth is to look for ways to incorporate what you do know — or even to redirect the conversation into more familiar waters altogether. If you perfect the seamless segue, you’ll be able to hold your own with anyone.
5. Identify “Safe Terrain” Topics
There are certain issues that Lloyd Webber refers to as “safe terrain” topics because everyone knows a little something about them. Think matters that impact everyone, like technology, for example. These topics are inclusive, so you can ensure that all parties stay involved.
6. Bring Out Fun Facts
File away interesting bits of trivia when you come across them. When you can whip out a memorable fact related to the topic of discussion, you’ll not only look smart, you’ll inspire reactions that keep the conversation flowing.
7. Ask For Opinions
A good conversation is engaging for all parties involved, so be sure to ask for opinions. You can also use this as a strategy to hide your own lack of knowledge on a particular subject. As a bonus, you’ll likely learn something, as well.
8. Ask About Personal Experiences
Just as asking for opinions works wonders, so does inviting your conversation partner to recount personal experiences. It should get them going, not to mention set you up for follow-up questions. As Lloyd Webber points out, asking about travel can have particularly good results.
9. Use Humor
A well-executed joke never goes amiss. When you manage to throw in humor relevant to whatever you’re talking about, you’ll look clever AF. #Conversationgoals, right?
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