Don’t Clam Up: Make a Conversation with Anyone, Anytime!

Hume Johnson, PhD

Former PM of Jamaica, Most Hon. PJ Patterson chats with author, Dr. Hume Johnson, and Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness. Jamaica' in Kingston, Jamaica, 2012.
Former PM of Jamaica, Most Hon. PJ Patterson chats with author, Dr. Hume Johnson, and Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness. Jamaica’ in Kingston, Jamaica, 2012.

Take a moment and visualize all the successful people you know or admire. Notice that the majority of them exhibit an extraordinary capacity to hold a good conversation. Experts agree that the ability to hold a good conversation promotes an image of self-confidence, intelligence and wit. Indeed people who always seem to be on top of their field professionally and are well respected by others share the ability to converse with anybody in every situation. People who can speak effectively and effortlessly with others are usually more popular (well-liked) and are more often than not, highly successful.

Conversation can be categorized into three parts

  1. The first part is ‘small talk’. Small talk is guided by social rules. These include polite greetings and salutations; inquiries about the well-being of others etc.
  2. The second part signals the end of ‘small talk’ and moves into the purpose of the conversation. This maybe business, the sharing of opinions and personal views. Without the capacity to express yourself effectively, the conversation can very easily slip back into small talk. This lessens the chances of accomplishing the initial goal of the conversation.
  3. The third part of a conversation is where the various ideas and views expressed can be merged into a satisfying end for all parties involved in the conversation.

The art of conversation can be learned. Again, note that it is common among successful energetic people. If you are unable to effectively express yourself in any situation, you will likely find that you do not attract the attention and command the respect that is bestowed upon some others. REMEMBER – People who talk freely and openly with others usually find more professional and personal fulfillment than those who are introverted and silent. If you want to improve your professional and social standing, learn to communicate effectively and in a positive manner. You will notice a dramatic difference in the way other people perceive you if you demonstrate self-confidence and project a friendly, informed image.

Here are a few tips that will help you improve your conversation skills and ramp up your image.

  1. DON’T SUFFER FROM GROUP-THINK. Always express YOUR opinions; and not what you think others want to hear, or want you to say. In professional contexts, feel free to say what is on your mind in a non-threatening and positive way. By doing this, you invite reactions and responses. Effective leaders are never afraid to say what their views are. If you display the courage to speak your mind and also listen openly to the views of others, you will earn respect and admiration of all those you encounter.
  2. LISTEN; GIVE YOUR FULL ATTENTION TO THE SPEAKER: When people are speaking with you listen empathetically. Hear not just what they say but all the emotions and motivations behind what they say and sympathise with where they are coming from. People will sometimes interpret what people say in a way which clouds their ability to hear what the person truly intends to say. If in doubt, repeat what they say to be clear that you are understanding their point of view before you respond.
  3. TRY TO MAKE SENSE OF THE SPEAKER: Not everybody will speak clearly. This does not mean they do not have a view and a reasonable perspective. If they seem unclear, try to find the meaning and give coherence to the words they are saying; Offer them the respect of hearing what they want you to hear. Give and receiving respect is essential to good conversation; it’s a give and take between parties; not one person speaking and the other merely listening.

Here’s wishing you great conversations!