The trick to be a great conversationalist is to always know the exact right thing to say. This comes with a lot of practice. Some people are easy to talk to – they will be chatty, full of interesting things to say and will keep the ball rolling instead of letting it drop. Then there are those who either refuse to talk or only have one avenue of interest that they will talk about. If both of you belong to some obscure indie flick fandom, then that’s great. But if he/she is talking science and you don’t understand what fission is, then you’re in trouble. Here are some ways to save yourself and your dignity:
Find Out Their Interests
It might take a while, but take the time to find out what their interests are because once you find out and get them going, you won’t be able to shut them up. If you’re at a party, ask the host/hostess about the guest, talk to others or ask probing but polite questions such as, “So what do you do?” and “I don’t quite know what that is. Could you please explain?” If they like their job, this is the best way to get them to talk. If they don’t, then it’ll be obvious and you just have to steer the conversation away from it. You never know, you may be sitting next to a manufacturer of Cyclocross bikes.
Learn to Listen
Sometimes we get paired up with pedantic old folk who love to reminisce a little too much. For instance, a vintage bikes collector isn’t anything to write home about. However, if you really listen you will realize that you are learning things that you never knew and perhaps, you never bothered to be interested in. The benefit of hearing from a pro or an enthusiast about a subject that you are not the least interested in is that they will communicate the reasons for their interests and sometimes, it’s much better and more convincing when you hear it from them. Force your brain to pay attention for the first 5 minutes and you will be hooked.
Relate, Don’t Interrupt
It’s nice to have your listener affirm your anecdote or tale with a story of their own. It shows that they were listening to you and that they understood. However, it is extremely rude if you have taken over the speaker’s story and moment and are now holding forth, especially if they were holding the floor in the first place. Some people have a nasty habit of breaking in and excitedly exclaiming that they had a similar experience, and omg what a coincindence! This shows bad manners, bad form and lack of patience – none of which a good conversationalist will have/do.