On Being A Good Conversationalist: Learning by Listening

Are you talking too much? Good conversation requires listening.

“If you want to be a good conversationalist, be a good listener. To be interesting, be interested.” — Dale Carnegie

Conversation is my favorite way to learn.

It’s like learning a new language through immersion. The experience and perspective of others is a vast store of knowledge waiting to be plumbed.

With each conversation, diversity of thought expands.

Being a good conversationalist means avoiding common traps formed by emotions, cognitive biases and insecurities.

Do you often dominate conversations? Allow your conversation to breathe with pauses. Don’t verbally mug the other person with frequent interruptions. If you want to have a good conversation, then be a good listener.

Are you carrying conversations? Limit small talk. Ask thought-provoking, open ended questions. Pause and give the other person time to think. Silence is often the best prompt.

Do you want other people to find you interesting and engaging? Start by being interested in the other person. The more they talk about their own interests, the more interesting you become.

Do you avoid conversation or seek escape when entangled? Practice open ended questions with friends and family. Have a few in reserve for the next unexpected encounter. Coral fear by thinking about what you have to gain.

Do you tend to be argumentative or judgmental? Enter every conversation with an open mind. Respond to challenging ideas or inconsistencies by asking questions. Agreement isn’t necessary, but learning and understanding is.

As with any skill, being a good conversationalist takes practice. Immerse yourself and learn as you go. Have as many conversations with as many people as possible.

Keep the following practices in mind, and you’ll be amazed at what you can learn in only one conversation:

  • Listen.

  • Don’t judge.

  • Limit small talk.

  • Pause occasionally.

  • Ask open ended questions.

🤔 Food for Thought:

Do you have a few thought-provoking, open ended questions in reserve for your next conversation?

Do you enter a conversation wanting to talk or listen?

How many interesting conversations have you had in the last week?

⚙️ One Small Step:

Think about your last conversation with a stranger or someone you recently connected with online. What was the small talk to deep talk ratio? Were you listening for at least half the conversation? What did you learn?