Follow these timeless tips for being a good conversationalist from The Art of Conversation.
- Avoid unnecessary details.
Don’t sidetrack. For example, if the time something happened isn’t important, don’t waste time getting it right.
- Don’t ask another question before the first one has been answered.
If you ask how someone’s children are, don’t jump in with your family health before she has answered.
- Do not interrupt another while he is speaking.
Also, try to make your story short, giving the other person a chance to speak and not interrupt.
- Do not contradict, especially if it’s not important.
You are inserting unnecessary details into the person’s story. “The person who contradicts, frequently restates the matter in another way.”
- Do not do all the talking.
Ask questions to find out what you both have in common.
- Don’t always be the hero of your story. However, the story should have a hero. Build up others as well as yourself.
- Choose a subject of mutual interest.
Draw the person’s interests out and don’t “hinge the conversation on politics when it should be on potatoes or on poetry.”
- Be a good listener.
You will naturally become one if you follow the above rules.
- The conversation should be in harmony with the surroundings.
Do not “talk about cheese when the moon would be a more fitting topic.” Also, don’t discount the appropriateness of silence.
- Do not exaggerate.
Not everything is “the best,” “the worst,” or “the funniest.”
- Do not misquote.
“Use the quotation for the occasion; do not make an occasion for the quotation.”
- Cultivate tact.
Do not be untruthful, but also don’t feel the need to be hurtful. Do not say someone looks unwell, sick, or tired. This will do nothing to further conversation and only make the person uncomfortable. Don’t hint at it either by asking if she had a long night. Remember silence is an option. “Say the right thing, or say nothing.”