5 Strategies for Becoming a Better Conversationalist

A few weeks ago, I was called by a consultant who was prospecting for business. He was a friend of a friend, so I felt duty-bound to give him thirty minutes to tell me about his company and the services he provides. Sadly, it was a complete waste of time.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/dwphotos, Image #6070301

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/dwphotos

For starters, the guy talked non-stop. I probably didn’t say more than three sentences in the entire call. Worse, he made all kinds of assumptions about me and my business. Most of them were wrong.

I gently tried to correct him, but he didn’t seem too interested in my point-of-view. Evidently, he had his script. He was determined to plow through it.

It made me wonder how many times I do the same thing with others.

The people I value the most are those who know how to listen. I actively seek them out. Interestingly, these are also the people who have the most influence with me. Why? Because I feel like they understand me.

Early in my business career, one of my mentors told me that conversations should be like a game of ping pong. You wait for the ball to come over the net, then you hit it back to the person on the other side. Then you do it all over again—and on it goes.

In a good conversation, there is both give and take. This is something we have intentionally tried to pass on to our own children.

I certainly have much to learn, but over the years, I have found the following strategies helpful in becoming a better conversationalist:

  1. Listen with your heart. Words are a small part of any communication. The intellectual exchange is only part of the exercise. You can pick up a lot by paying attention to the non-verbal cues, including the other person’s eyes, their tone of voice, and their body language.
  2. Be aware of how much you are talking. I try to talk in sound bites. Frankly, I learned this from doing hundreds of radio and TV interviews through the years. If I didn’t periodically stop talking and give the interviewers a chance to speak, they weren’t bashful about interrupting me or bringing the interview to a close. People are more polite, but you can still lose them, as the would-be consultant did with me.
  3. Hit the ball back over the net. Nothing communicates value and respect to a person more than asking them what they think. Unless you’re giving a formal speech, every encounter should be a dialogue. That means you have to consciously hit the ball back over the net and give the other person a chance to respond. The best way to do this is with thoughtful questions.
  4. Ask follow-up questions. The best listeners I know never stop with just one question. Like peeling an onion, they ask follow-up questions, going deeper each time. This is where you learn the most and where you tap into the possibility to add real value to the other person’s life. One question I like to ask is this, “How did it make you feel when that happened?”
  5. Provide positive feedback. A “poker-face” may help when you are playing cards, but it does not help build trust or develop relationships. People need to know that you are listening and understand them. Nodding your head and providing verbal affirmation are critical skills that anyone can learn, but they must be cultivated.

Your ability to lead is directly tied to your ability to lead powerful conversations. If you want to increase your influence, you have to perfect the gentle art of conversational ping pong.

Question: What have you learned about becoming a better conversationalist? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/jonstolpe Jon Stolpe

    Again, James 1 applies…”be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” This verse alone has transformed my conversations tremendously.  I think it’s extremely important to remember that the other person in the conversation has a story to share also.  We need to be interested in their story.  A good way to stay engaged and to check for appropriate understanding is to ask follow-up questions.  “I heard you say ________.  Is that correct?”

    • http://www.paulbevans.com Paul B Evans

      Awesome reminder Jon. I wrote and article on James 1 last week. So I reckon the Lord is telling ME to apply it! :)

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        And I’ve been studying James for the past 2 months. I’m getting the same message everywhere I turn!

      • Ankur V Misra

        Hi Paul, would you like to share your article please? :-)


    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The older I get, the more important that verse becomes. I find myself going to it again and again. Thanks for the reminder.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Great verse to pull out Jon. It is a great, condensed version of Michael’s post.

    • http://levittmike.wordpress.com levittmike

      Great application of James in your comment, Jon!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Love James 1. James is such a practical book.

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      James is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Great application.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Great verse!

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       Yep, that works well until I disagree with my wife (don’t seem to be slow enough there). :D

    • http://www.dwaynes--world.blogspot.com Dwayne Morris

      2 ears and 1 mouth = listening twice as much as you speak!

  • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com/ Patricia Zell

    Occasionally, I find myself dominating conversations, and I immediately remind myself to ask questions. I also use conversations with my students as formative assessments to check their understanding of the concepts we are working on. Good advice, Michael!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Me too, Patricia. I am constantly working at becoming a better question-asker, more other-focused. And yet I still find myself dominating conversations. Maybe it’s because of how much I love a good conversation!

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       My wife has a question she often asks me after a Sunday morning at church. Did you talk too much again? The question helps slow me down and forces me to refocus on others and what they have to say.

  • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

    I read Stephen Covey refer to most conversations as “collective monologues.” This is so true. For me, the real issue is listening. My failure to listen derives from being more concerned about what is going on in my world than what is going on with others.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I find that social media can really make the problem worse if we are not careful. We get so focused on writing, postingm and speaking, that we forget to listen.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       Excellent description. Convicting when I’m the culprit and aggravating when I’m not. It’s kind of like being on a basketball team where one player dribbles the ball and never person. Don’t be that person.

  • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

    I feel sorry for that consultant! I had a similar incident some months back. This was an elderly minister who made the call from another country trying to get me work for his organization. Since he was much older than my father, I respected him. But he went on talking and he made some absolutely wrong statements about what I do. And the talk came to an abrupt ending. 

    I believe one smart way to be a good conversationalist is to be a listener. Listening helps to find common ground, ask appropriate questions and give helpful advice. The good thing about that is it’s a win-win state that promotes further conversation.

    Helpful post, Michael!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Your experience with that conversation shows us exactly why we need to stop and listen. When we dominate we misconstrue the other person.

      • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

        I agree, Joe.

    • Jim Martin

      Great comment Joe.  Years ago, I had lunch with a guy (for the first time).  We met at the restaurant and I asked him how his morning went.  For the next hour he talked non-stop.  (This was not a crisis nor did he have extenuating circumstances.)  He spent an hour sharing his opinions, his judgments, and  his preferences.  At the end of the hour, I literally had to interrupt him and tell him that I had to get back to the office.  A very different lunch!

      • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

        Ha..ha.. Nuisance in disguise!

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       I know I’ve had some recent conversations with consultants in relation to my novel where I couldn’t wait for the person to get off script so I could express what I wanted or needed. I think two things may push a caller to talk more than listen. The first is time. The person may be running through a list and have a need to contact x number of people before the hour is up. The other is fear. “I need to speak or else I won’t control the conversation. And who knows where that might lead?”

      • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

        I understand. But both are bad approaches. Thanks for sharing the insights.

  • http://www.frymonkeys.com Alan Kay

    Winston Churchill noted that at times being able to listen is an act of bravery. When I meet people for the fist time I do my best to start of with the question, ‘What pleases you most in your work?’. It forces me to pay more attention to them because they often tell me compelling stories which give me the information I need to say something relevant in return. Conversation is about sharing value.  

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I ask a similar question too: “What is your favorite part of working here?” I like that it also sets a positive tone rather than complaining one. Sometimes, it even gets the other person back in touch with the positive aspects of their job. Thanks.

      • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

        I like that question! 

    • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

      It is about asking the right questions.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       Love the Churchill observation and your question–wisdom with a laugh.

  • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

    Great post. To maximize influence we must learn to listen with empathy – to the point of feeling their emotions in our heart. We simply will not be effective standing across the counter or sitting across the desk waiting for the chance to start talking again. Thanks for the reminders! Michael

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Like you, Michael, I need these constant reminders to be a good listener! My wife will have a better day now that I’ve read these great tips ;)

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Michael, I like what you said about empathy. Yes, we are not listening to a robot speaking but a human talking!

      • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

        Thanks Joe!

  • Anonymous

    Awesome! This is something that I really have to work on. This is right on time! Thanks so much!!!

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      What did you like best about it, Scott?

      • Anonymous

        The listen with your heart. I struggle at times with actively listening.  

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Great conversation starter, Michael. Five great points! In my case, two books have helped me tremendously over the years, when it comes to communicating with others. The first is the classic, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. The second is “How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less,” by Nicholas Boothman. Both books are full of practical tips to help you build rapport with others, with easy to follow exercises to help you make eye contact, smile, and quickly bring people in to your way of thinking.

    I use many of the tips from these books on a daily basis. Dale Carnegie suggests that we find something that we can complement the other person on. This may be the way they are dressed, their attitude, or maybe even a smile. A sincere complement goes a long ways to help break the ice. It can also absolutely make someone’s day. The next time you get great service in a restaurant give your server a compliment. This will offset the complainers and gripers and put a smile on their face. As a side note, you may just get incredible service on a return visit!

    Nick’s book has been very helpful, but one simple phrase stands out, “Capture the imagination, and you capture the heart.” Make your conversations interesting. Bring people in. Focus on their needs.

    I listen to both of these books often. A quick refresher helps me focus on the importance of good communication.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for these recommendations. I want to go back and read Carnegie. I haven’t read him since high school.
      One of the questions I always ask servers is “So how are you doing?” They sometimes seemed surprised and say, “Thanks for asking!” Evidently, they don’t get asked that much.
      Thanks again.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        Carnegie’s work is just as timely today as when it was written in 1936. I remember reading it for the first time years ago when I was in sales. It made a huge difference in my sales technique and had a direct impact on my bottom line. Not only did my sales increase, but my attitude and my relationships with customers improved dramatically. I like to read it through (listen via audio) at least once a year.

        • http://cavemanreflections.blogspot.com/ Michael Mulligan

           My Dale Carnegie instructor became one of my closest friends, John.  When I moved to California, he stayed at my house the first summer.  We attended baseball games every July for 22 years.  Now that I’m moving, this will be the first July without him.

          The best lesson I learned from him is you don’t take the course, you live the course.  Great idea to go back and re-read the material every year, or, make friends with the instructor and spend face-to-face time with him annually.

          • http://www.irunurun.com/blog/ Travis Dommert

            Sounds like your instructor *lived* the course, too!  Great story.  Will have to make this classic a priority…thanks!

          • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

             That sounds like an awesome experience with your instructor. If only everyone was as blessed as you were.

          • http://cavemanreflections.blogspot.com/ Michael Mulligan

             Thanks, Joe.  I do believe everyone is blessed.  Most blessings are disguised in the hardships.

          • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

            I took the sales course 25 years ago. Life changing experience.

          • http://cavemanreflections.blogspot.com/ Michael Mulligan

             Me too, John.  I’d recommend my instructor as a guest poster for this site, however, he rarely enters cyberspace.  I took my future wife to graduation night when I took the course and she was impressed.  It’s a great course to live your life by.  Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       I finished reading How To Win Friends a couple of months ago. It was
      the first time reading it and I was thoroughly impressed how relevant it
      still is today. That man had wisdom.

      I will have to check out Nick’s book. Hopefully it will help me improve my communication!

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        Nick’s book is like a small treasure chest. Lots of useful gems you can put to use.

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

          Nice. Just placed the order. Can’t wait for it to arrive.

    • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

       I’m downloading these from Audible.com as I type!  I’ve been meaning to read the first for years, and the second sounds excellent!

      I just got home from a women’s retreat. I was impressed by my table leader’s skill at drawing everyone into conversation.

      #2 wasn’t her forte, but she more than made up for it with #1 and #5: she was so genuinely excited about life and everyone that we all relaxed and shared aimiabily!

      • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

        Cheri … I have found that the more genuine  you can be, the better the results. Even if you’re not a very good conversationalist, sincerity can make up for a lot of things!

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        Both books are an easy listen, and I pick up new things each time I hear them.

    • http://www.justcris.com/ Cris Ferreira

      John, those books you mentioned seem really good. The most appealing thing for me were the exercises. I added them to my to-read list, thank you.

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        What I like about both books are the practical applications. You can apply them right away.

  • http://www.andrewsobel.com/ Andrew

    Great guidelines. President Lincoln, who had extraordinary empathy, wrote, “When I go to speak with a man, I spend two thirds of my time thinking about what he is going to say, and one third of my time thinking about what I am going to say.” I find two types of questions very useful when I want to get to know someone or if I’m meeting with a client for the first time: Passion questions and Agenda questions. Passion questions try to get at what they are really passionate and enthusiastic about in their lives–e.g., “As you look ahead to the next year or two in your business, what are you most excited about?” or “When you’re not shaking things up in the office, what do you like to do on your weekends or holidays” Agenda questions are about their priorities and goals right now. I think you connect with others (in a professional setting) and get them interested in building a relationship with you when you show how you can add value to their agenda of essential priorities. E.g., “What are your two or three most important initiatives this year?” or even, “I’m curious, what goals has your leadership set for you this year? At the end of the year, how are you going to be evaluated?” I’ve never had someone refuse to answer that last question–and it tells me everything about what’s important to them at work.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Some really great questions here.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      These are really creative questions and I would be really engaged by them!

  • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

    I’ve heard that there is a physiologic reason that makes it hard to listen.  The human brain can process 1000 words a minute but the mouth can speak at only 250 words a minute.  It is that 750 word gap that can make it difficult.  That is why my mind may wander.

    My dad used to say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth.  Use them proportionately.”

    I struggle everyday with it.  This is a great reminder for me today.  Thank you.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That probably explains why I listen to audio books and podcasts and double-speed!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Personally I ma glad that my mouth can’t keep up wit my brain, because if it could I would be in a whole heap of trouble! :)

      • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham


    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      It’s almost torture knowing those stats, isn’t it? We can process faster than we can speak. But like you say, that’s probably on purpose!

  • Anonymous

    Great advice. And particularly great advice for getting through the political season. I’m convinced that people don’t want to know your opinions on certain topics, they are looking for a foil that enables them to share the beliefs. Points and 2 and 3 come in handy in these situations. 

    And all five come in handy for introverts like myself. 

    • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

      3. Asking the right questions – Is one that I struggle with. I’m going to work on that this week in my social engagements. 

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I totally agree with the intention of the post. I’m naturally more listener than the talker and it helped me a lot in my job or personal relations. I prefer to listen most of the time and speak only when I think my words are needed and will achieve something (for the others or common good). One thing I think helps the most is to remind oneself – you have two ears and one mouth, use them in same ratio.

    • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

      I like that saying. Two ears, one mouth. Apply the same ratio to conversation!

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Two ears, one mouth – great analogy!

  • Tom ODonnell

    For me, the breakthrough idea in conversation is that I still need a plan or at least a template of how I want the thing to go, or else I just talk on and on or I allow the conversation to remain on sports/weather/kids.  It seems so simple to “just” talk, but it requires forethought…at least for me.

  • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

    I’ve learned that trying to be the “Alpha Male” in this situation doesn’t work. Unless it is an even exchange, a lot of people tend to switch off. What works best for me is being confident in myself and thinking in a way that ‘Imparts life’ into the other person. It seems to be working pretty good for me. I’ve still got a long way to go.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Me too!

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Trying to show off doesn’t work long in a conversation. If we do, as you said, “switch off” will be the result.

  • Nancy

    Great article! 

    Be true to yourself when talking to others.  Don’t tell someone they gave a great speech when they didn’t.  Tell them you enjoyed the speech but give them a couple pointers which would have made the speech better.  Being honest is much more important than being liked.

    • http://robsorbo.com/ Rob Sorbo

      I also like discussing with them what they shared (even if it’s just one point that stood out to me). I find that people are surprised that someone paid attention and are willing to engage.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Being honest is much more important than being liked” – good point!

  • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com/ Dennis

    Thank you for another great post. Is there a place for: “#6 – Be intentional about 1-5″? Today it seems that most opportunities to ‘listen’ are passive. We listen to political debates. We passively watch and listen to television. I suspect in doing these passive things we are no loner exercising the muscles needed to listen in a way that makes for good conversation.

    After reading your post I am determined to actively and intentionally do the five things you have listed.

    After your mentor described conversation in terms of ping-pong did it take long to develop the habits involved in being a good conversationalist?

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      I like your observation about television. It could be one of the reasons our conversation skills are lacking.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think it takes long at all if you are naturally curious and CHOOSE to be fascinated by others.

  • http://cavemanreflections.blogspot.com/ Michael Mulligan

    Great analogy with the ping pong.  The listener who asks the “how does it make you feel” questions will always be remembered as a great conversationalist.  Thanks for the pointers.  I think you “aced” this one.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    Over the years I have found number 2 to be of utmost importance. Far too often I find myself in one sided conversations because the other person talks the whole time. When you’re unwilling to yield to the other person, they feel put out and unimportant.

    One of the areas I always have issues with is the multiple person conversation. When there are three or more people the conversation can be difficult. I’m always fearful of interrupting someone that wants to speak. Any suggestions?

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      As you said, by listening, we show others that they are important. But, at the same time, you don’t need to be fearful of interrupting someone since multiple person conversation works on the ‘give and take’ principle. You give some, you take some. You value others, you value yourself. So enjoy the conversation!

  • Tracy Hoots Hoexter

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m working on teaching my 10 yr old these things now. We’ll read this article together this afternoon. Thank you!

  • mary pudaite keating

    Patience…in this world where we are in such a hurry to get our answers or move on to the next thing (and modern technology does not help us refine this character trait)–I find the best conversationalist (and listeners) have the gift/art of “slowing”.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      ‘Art of slowing’? Beautiful wording!

  • Lynda

    I have changed a lot over the years by intention. I realized I had a problem and I read a lot of books about speaking and conversations. I also learned by what irritated me. I have learned conversation is like playing volleyball. If a blunt statement is made, it can damage the conversation. Being interested in others and not being self important is important. Learning to facilitate a conversation is important.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      I like what you said about ” learning to facilitate a conversation”. That’s a good way to look at it.

  • http://messymiddle.com/ Amy @ themessymiddle

    My dad is an engineer. My mom is not. I am not.

    My dad, a man I dearly love, comes home from work and goes on in minute detail about projects from work. I once asked my mom if she found Dad going on and on really that interesting, as I didn’t. Her answer cut to my heart:

    “The ‘L’ in love stands for listen.”

    I have never forgotten her words.

    • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

       Amy — What a beautiful example of love in action!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      That is a great illustration thanks for sharing!

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      Your mom must be a neat person. I love what she said, and will remember  it… because I am married to an engineer. ;-)

    • Jim Martin

      Amy, what a great story!

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Beautiful! Thanks for sharing that, Amy. I take that advice.

  • Pmpope68

    Excellent tips and I’m glad your first one was about listening with the heart.  That goes such a long way in good communication.  To feel that another really “hears” you when you may not be verbally articulating your feelings well, is immeasurable.  

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      I agree.

  • http://levittmike.wordpress.com levittmike

    By improving your listening skills, your conversational skills will likely improve as well.  When I encounter someone that was born without an internal Pause button, I have to silently pray, so my blood pressure doesn’t go through the roof.

    • Jim Martin

      Mike, this is a great suggestion regarding improving one’s conversational skills by improving one’s  listening skills first 

      • http://levittmike.wordpress.com levittmike

        Thanks Jim!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ronny.goel Rohan Goel

    Read, Read, Read ……….
     To become a better conversationalist, one needs to establish a common meeting ground. If one is well read , the conversation is more interesting and hence serves its purpose well.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Good point, Rohan.

  • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

    Thank you for yet another post I will share with my students! So many of them are certain that I make everything up out of thin air…that “in the real world” things are different (i.e. exactly the way THEY want things to be!)

    My sophomores regularly ask me to let them “have a debate.” Each time, I tell them that as soon as they demonstrate enough maturity at LISTENING, I will pull out all the official debate rule books and they can start learning how to have a civil debate. Of course, they are dismayed to find out that there are books (!) giving rules (!) for debate…that I’m not going to just let them “have at it” with each other.

    A couple of weeks ago, we had our first Socratic Circle. I’d prepped them by discussing the difference between dialogue and debate, making it clear that our purpose is dialogue: listening, questioning, exploring.

    #2 was a major issue for at least 1/3 of them; several were very upset at the end because they “had so much more to say!”  I’m going to have them rate their own participation based on #1-5 from this post, then come up with suggestions for becoming more aware of their habits and making adjustments so that they are better prepared for “the real world”! 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I really like the idea of the Socratic Circle.

  • Prministries

    Very convicting…we all need to be better at being intentional in our relationships…
    Thank you for this… The Guido”s are grateful!

  • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

    I have learned to really be intentional about the personal pronouns that I use in conversation. We have all been around people that just want to say I… I… I…! The challenge is making sure to work in the other personal pronouns so the conversation isn’t all about you. ex.—  “What do YOU think about that new proposal?” “SHE is a really talented leader.” “THEY are a great couple…” I try to use as many personal pronouns, other than “I”, in a conversation as I can to make a person feel important and engaged. We, They, You, He, She.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Thanks for sharing this valid point in conversation, Barry!

  • http://www.facebook.com/dukes.damon.d Damon D. Dukes

    I’m not going to lie but I am not the best when it comes to conversations at times

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Recognizing the truth is always the first step. Be encouraged!

  • http://twitter.com/jimnyland Jim Nyland

    When someone takes the time to seek me out for a conversation, I feel an obligation to be fully present and attentive; there is an old adage that reminds us that we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that proportion. 

    The most important reminder that I share with my sales teams, friends and children, is to make sure to restate what you are hearing to garner full understanding – far too often, people hear what they want to hear; applying their own personal filter to the conversation. 

    Taking the time to clarify, understand, and only then, participate in the conversation, further solidifies your trust in the eyes of those that seek you out

    Jim Nyland

    • Jim Martin

      Jim, you have made some great suggestions here regarding listening and being fully present in a conversation.  

      (Also, you are right.  Far too often, people hear what they want to hear.)

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Like your point, Jim. I think “applying their own personal filter to the conversation” can be termed “selfish hearing”. 

  • http://www.justcris.com/ Cris Ferreira

    Your last posts have been hitting home with me, Michael.
    Regarding conversations, a while ago I used to treat them not as ping pong matches, but rather as chess matches.
    While the other person was talking, I was planning what to respond, laying out a strategy. Sometimes, I would even interrupt them to speak my mind (that’s awful, I know!)
    Then I read somewhere that the worst kind of listener is the one that, while the other person is talking, he is figuring out what to say, and not really paying attention to the person’s issues.
    Ouch! That felt like a slap on my face. That exactly how I behaved.
    So I’ve been trying to change. Now, I really try to focus on the person, and wait for their cues. Try to understand their point of view instead of trying to impose mine.
    The amazing thing is that I got to learn so much more with people. I think this period has been so rich for me in learning from other people’s experience. When I don’t make it about me, I still gain from it.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      At times, I am guilty of the same thing. I have to try to remain open during conversations— especially ones that I feel like I know something about the topic.

      • http://www.justcris.com/ Cris Ferreira

        Barry, you got it right. For me, it is sooooo hard to be a good listener when I know (or think I know) about the topic we’re talking about. On the other hand, it is so easy when the topic is interesting and I don’t know much about it. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not about me, it’s about the other person. Even if they want my opinion, it’s got to be about what they need or want to know.
        These things are hard, but I believe we help people much more effectively when we focus on what they need and not on what we want to give them.

    • Rachel Lance

      Cris, great analogy, chess match! Thanks for sharing your experience, I can really relate.

  • Connie Almony

    Amazing that you posted this article today. I met this great person yesterday at church and I was so excited to speak with her about her writing that I, uh, launched into a diatribe about my own. I know, sounds counterintuitive, but sadly, it’s true. I came away wishing I’d known more about her. I gave her my card because she told me she was interested in doing an interview piece for my blog. I pray I have another chance to get to know her. I suspect she has lots of interesting life experiences to share. This article was a Holy Spirit confirmation to me today. Thanks!

    • Jim Martin

      Connie, good for you in catching yourself after experiencing that conversation.  (I have done the same kind of thing before.)  I wish you well in the next conversation you have with her.

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  • http://www.authorcynthiaherron.com/ Cynthia Herron

    In my initial career path, I worked in the field of human services. I love people, and of course, I wanted to “make a difference.” (Don’t we all?) Many times, the people I served weren’t happy to see me, but some were. I could tell within the first 30 seconds how our conversation was going to go. Little or no eye contact was always a dead giveaway. Silence was also a telling indicator, as much as an overbearing attitude. God gave me a lot of insight into human nature during that time in my life.

    I’m a great listener, but I’ve learned over the years that there’s indeed a time to listen, and indeed, a time to shut a conversation down. A closed mindset does nothing to advance communication between two parties. One thing I continue to do, however, is to take the high road if at all possible. We can be intentional without being un-Christian.

    Thank you for another fantastic post and such excellent reminders!

  • http://intentionalbygrace.com Leigh Ann

    This is a super helpful post! Conversation was not something that was intentionally taught to me growing up. When I got married, my husband could not understand why I struggled to talk with people. I had no idea how to be a conversationalist. I was, however, a good listener! ha! Anyways, through the years and practice, this has come easier. I pray I can teach my children conversation. There is much to be learned from being a good question ask-er and intentionally peeling back the layers of the people you encounter! Jesus was good at this, and by His grace, we will be too!

  • http://twitter.com/lancecashion lance cashion

    I’ve learned when trying to connect and be a good listener, to physically lean into the conversation.  I also like to repeat/recap what someone has told me back to them.  When I don’t have anything to say or trying to find something interesting in the exchange.  I ask them to ‘tell me more’. 

    • Jim Martin

      Lance, what a great suggestion.  I have also found that it helps to look people in the eye when I am listening.  Thanks.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Great suggestions, Lance.

  • http://www.irunurun.com/blog/ Travis Dommert

    I had been perplexed at why I am such an avid listener to some people…almost to a fault, and with others charge ahead and drone on, feeling compelled to “help” the conversation. 

    Then in 2010 my Sunday school class studied the hypocratic personality types, and I discovered that I am a rare blend of Phlegmatic (peaceful) and Choleric (powerful).  Turns out the tendency of someone like me is to be more peaceful around powerful people and more powerful around peaceful people.   So much for just “being myself”!

    Anyway, it would frustrate me to do so well in some conversations…orchestrating a beautiful match of “ping pong”, then the very next hour just ramrod a presentation or concept down some poor prospect’s throat.  They’d never object, mind you…but if you’re being honest, you know when you’ve done all the talking.

    Now I try to use discipline to think of questions BEFORE the discussion starts, so my natural tendencies don’t steal the show.  I’ve found praying helps, too!

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Travis, I agree especially with what you said about praying!

  • http://profiles.google.com/michaelpaddy Michael Paddy

    Michael, thank you. It was a great reminder to one who is verbose
    under certain circumstances. A book that has helped me come to terms with the
    listening factor in conversations is “Why Don’t We Listen Better?” By Jim

    My problem is insecurity and excitement, insecure with certain individuals with
    whom I may feel threatened or wanting to impress and excitement in the presence
    of someone of significance. (I would be terrible at poker). From time to time your blog gets printed in large font and posted on the wall facing my desk.
    This is one of them!

    • Jim Martin

      Michael, thank you so much for this book suggestion.  I just sent to Amazon and downloaded a sample on my Kindle.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Glad to know that Michael’s posts are really helping you, Michael! It helps me too. 

  • http://www.CrazyAboutChurch.com/ Charles Specht

    Sales is a difficult thing.  You want people to like your product, to buy your product, to actually USE your product, and to advertise your product to others…but no one wants to be “sold” a product.  They want to be made to feel like they were presented options and they chose to purchase because it was a great deal.  Nothing worse then buyers remorse for one’s product line.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Good observation, Charles.

  • Lee Steels

    Well done!  Now … what do we say to folks who are well-meaning but they love to talk and simply won’t give up their pedestal?

    I love the following quotes about listening, but if I slip one in to a conversation with a motor-mouth, they just don’t seem to ever get it.The first duty of love is to listen.Paul TillichListen, or thy tongue will keep thee deaf.Native ProverbYou talk too much. You worry me to death. You talk too much. You even worry my pets!From a 50’s Song

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      About the question: love them but tell them the truth in love!

  • http://twitter.com/franthony Fr. Anthony Messeh

    Excellent article, but I have another analogy that I’ve used before in sermons – especially when talking to married couples about the art of conversation.  Instead of ping pong, I look at conversations more like a game of catch.  Why?

    In ping pong, you see the ball and hit it right away.  That’s what often happens in conversations – we listen only to figure out how we will respond.  In other words, we aren’t really listening.  We just waiting for the other person to hit the ball back over the net so we can get our turn to hit it.  That isn’t listening; that is just not

    In a game of catch however, before you can throw the ball back you have to receive it.  You have to look it all the way into your body.  You can’t throw it until you’ve first caught it.

    That emphasizes the point of listening.  Don’t think about what you will say until you have first fully received what the other person is saying.  That is real listening.

    Love your article Mike, but just figured I’d share that in case it helps.  Keep up the great posts Mike.  We love them!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Great analogy! I was thinking the same thing… some of the people who have destroyed me in ping pong would tell you it wasn’t much of a conversation. Ha.  I like the catch analogy for a lot of reasons. One of them being, like you said, you have to concentrate on the ball and receiving the throw before you can throw back! Great Stuff!

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      I like your analogy. Thanks for sharing it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Catch is actually a MUCH better metaphor than ping pong. It makes a subtle but powerful distinction.
      I’m totally stealing it! Thanks, Father.

    • http://robsorbo.com/ Rob Sorbo

      So many times in sports you see someone who focuses on the next move, but forgets to focus on the catch. Not only is the catch vitally important, but not thinking too far ahead before you get the catch keeps you from further conversation blunders.

    • Jim Martin

      What a great image!  I like this analogy and your explanation.  Very helpful!

  • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

    Being a loquacious extrovert by nature, (my blog is called Chatty Kelly), I learned several years back that listening was a skill I needed to work on.  At first it wasn’t easy not to interject or interrupt. But over time I have acquired the skill.  I work hard to truly listen to what someone is saying…not just think about my own response. 

    I’m a better friend now, and it’s amazing what you can learn when you really listen. Great advice today, Michael.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Excellent point, Kelly!  It’s a natural tendency for me to be thinking several steps ahead in the conversation, so I have to actively concentrate on REALLY listening instead of forecasting where the conversation is going next.  

  • http://www.IntentionalNetworker.com/ Patti

    This is an excellent blog that I wish more people would read and reflect on.  I love to talk, but am learning that it actually can be more energizing and interesting to listen more (and, yes, with my heart, as you mention). I’m even getting more comfortable with a moment or two of silence in a conversation — that leaves the space to hear what the other person will say next — often a very memorable part of a conversation and the nugget I need to most here.   As for people who are in the habit of chronically dominating conversations? I avoid them like the plague. It is a dance that takes two to make it interesting.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I’m discovering the same thing, Patti. Listening IS energizing, AND educational, and inspiring, and challenging and … We really learn so much when we position ourselves as students and listeners in a conversation.

  • http://twitter.com/CarrieDaws Carrie Daws

    Great pointers! I’ve heard this taught to children by giving them a ball that they actually pass when it’s the next person’s turn in the conversation. Ask a question, hand the ball over. Answer the question and add a comment, hand the ball over. Etc. Sometimes this training should be offered to adults!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Well, actually, my husband and I have been known to do that very thing when we’re not doing a good job of listening to each other. ;)

    • Charity Hawkins

      ooh, I’m going to try that with my kids. Dinners are exhausting right now with all 3 kids talking over/interrupting each other. I’m going to try that passing the ball idea. We can talk about how waiting and listening shows kindness and love to the other people. Thanks for the idea!

    • Jim Martin

      Carrie, what a good idea!  I wish we had done this with our children at times when they were younger.

  • http://www.leadtoimpact.com/ Bernard Haynes

    Great post Micheal.  With today’s fast paced and always in a hurry world, we have neglected listening. My wife nailed me on not listening a couple of days ago. She made a statement that I wasn’t really paying attention. And about an hour later I asked her a question about the statement she made. She said if you would have listened to me earlier you would heard the answer to your question. I realized that I need to listen more attentively by closing my mouth and opening my ears.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      I am so guilty of that! Not just with my wife, with others too, where I am sorta paying attention.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Like your honesty, Bernard! Yes, we got to be intentional about closing our mouth and opening our ears for great conversations.

  • http://mauricefoverholt.wordpress.com/ Maurice F. Overholt

    Thanks, Michael. I appreciate the reminder. One of the most important things that has guided me in conversation has been my dad’s statement that “Prople just want to be heard.” That advice has helped me in many difficult church leadership discussions. It has helped me to keep from becoming defensive or taking things personally.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Isn’t that the truth? Every one of us wants to be heard. Often we pursue BEING heard far more passionately than HEARING.

    • Jim Martin

      Maurice, you make such a good point here!  Your dad is right.  “People just want to be heard.”

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      I agree with that, Maurice. Thanks for sharing your experience. All of us want to be heard and valued.

  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    Great strategies, Michael. And this afternoon I have an appointment during which I can put this into immediate practice. Pumped! 

    In my struggle to become a better conversationalist, my pendulum has swung both directions — talking constantly to not talking/sharing at all (my poor attempt at not dominating). As you mentioned, it’s a volley, asking questions and then sharing when your turn comes. Depth of relationship is built on mutual vulnerability.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      “Depth of relationship is built on mutual vulnerability.”  Well said, Michele!  To get there, though, we’ve got to build trust.  To build trust, we have to communicate that we care through active listening.  

      I’ve done this poorly also.  Though, the bad results help me remember the lessons well!

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Depth of relationship is built on mutual vulnerability” – beautiful! 

      I believe ‘give & take’ is a key in great conversations.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net/ Daniel Decker

    Well played. : ) 

  • http://twitter.com/scottesavage scottesavage

    My wife has a mantra, “Everyone has a story.” When I live in the reality of that mantra, I discover people longing for someone to listen to them and I find a huge source of compassion and encouragement in me. I become a better conversationalist when I look for ways to hear and understand their story and see places where it connects to mine. 

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      So true, Scott!

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Giving our ears to others’ stories – that’s a great way to look at great conversation!

  • Marilyn

    I’m not a good conversationalist, and it has been all too
    easy for me to write off my skill deficit with “well, that’s my weak point.”

    This morning, as part of last minute prep for Bible Study
    Fellowship tonight, I read II Corinthians 13:11, where Paul encourages the
    Corinthians to “…Become complete…” This challenged me to revisit areas of skill
    deficit. I can’t work on everything at once, but I can have a heart to become complete.

    Then, I read your post! Thanks for the encouraging words and
    the wise, practical counsel. I’m grateful for this blog, not only because it
    calls folks to a higher place, but because it also provides practical tools to
    get there!

    • Rachel Lance

      So glad you were encouraged, Marilyn. Don’t get too down on a skill deficit. It’s good to identify and then go the next step and find ways to build new muscle in that are little bits at a time. The 5 points in Michael’s post are great for making incremental changes in our conversation style.

  • http://robsorbo.com/ Rob Sorbo

    I’m great at ping pong, just not so great at serving–I can respond in any conversation, I just don’t know how to get it started.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Rob, you’ve nailed the hard part.  A mentor of mine taught me to get the conversation started, just ask the other person questions about themselves.  He said something that I never forget in conversational ping-pong:  “People love to talk about themselves!”

      • Jim Martin

        John, this is exactly how I have experienced some of the most interesting conversations.  You are right, “People love to talk about themselves.”

  • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

    Listening has always been something I have enjoyed doing. I enjoy being listened to, so I like to give someone the ability to talk. I listen with empathy. My heart-strings are tugged as people tell me their stories. Sometimes this has caused me to not ask good questions in the midst of listening. I take what could be a great growing experience and just turn it into them talking and me listening. 

    I have been working on finding good questions to ask during a dialogue. I want to internalize them so I can keep the conversation going and possibly challenge the “talker.” 

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      Wow.  I wished I was great at listening.  Any tips?  

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Like reading your experience, Brandon. I think you got those good questions that you were seeking for from this post and many of the comments.

  • http://www.workyouenjoy.com Adam Rico

    We live in a culture where the expectation is if you have something to say you will just interrupt or talk over the other person. So when I speak with someone who is really listening it initially throws me off a bit.

    Then when I understand they are truly listening I’m thrilled to speak with that person. As a result, they often will facilitate a more deep and interesting conversation. Truly good listeners are a rare breed and I strive to give the gift of listening to others. Thanks for the great post Michael.

    • Jim Martin

      Adam, you make a good point.  Good listeners are rare.  They seem to much more difficult to find that those who wish to suddenly interrupt or cut off a comment.  

      Good for you in striving to give this gift to others.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      truly listening” – that’s a key, Adam. Not simply hearing, but listening.

  • Lisa

    The most valuable lesson I have learned about conversation actually came from my years of classroom teaching experience: the concept of “wait time”.  Giving the person my silence  as space to answer a question I’ve asked helps communicate respect.  Being simply present without hurrying in to fill the silence expresses “I am with you” without words.

    • Jim Martin

      Lisa, I really like this!  The concept of “wait time” must communicate much respect and desire to communicate with this person.  Thanks.

  • Bonnie House

    I learned that I need to be a good listener. Also by listening then I can ask the right questions.

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      I am with you Bonnie.  I need a lot help in this area. 

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    People have real needs and when someone is selfish and not listening, who knows what that could do to someone’s life. By talking too much you might also miss out on important details, in the past this has happened to me with my wife (she wasn’t too happy)

    • http://www.timpeters.org/ Tim Peters

      Important details.  Exactly.  

  • http://twitter.com/justbeingstill Kimberly Burton

    I used this article in my 4th grade Language Arts class today!  From the start of the year, I teach my students about how important conversations are to their learning!  We do a great deal of it everyday.  Thanks for writing a blog post that I could use in my classroom (with help on several words of course:).  I talked through the entire article with them and got to show them a real-life example of why it’s important to be able to use the skills I’m teaching them!  The ping pong illustration was perfect for them!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      How encouraging! Thanks for dropping by to tell me. Awesome!

  • http://henryfiallo.wordpress.com/ Enrique Fiallo

    For me, empathetic listening is one of the keys to being a great conversationalist: listening for deep comprehension of what the other person is saying, and to completely understand their point of view. During this type of “listening”, I don’t think about what I am going to say, I don’t interrupt, I don’t prepare my “agenda” in rebuttal. I just engage in pure listening so that I may understand, and to walk in the other person’s shoes for a while. 

    One of the best teachers I ever had told me that if I just LISTENED intently to people, even if I didn’t say much, they would walk away from their interactions with me saying, “what a great conversationalist he is!” He was right. Pure listening makes people feel like you really care, that you truly want to understand, and that you value their point of view. Nice post!
    Enrique Fiallo

  • LaRae Quy

    I’ve found that the use of questions to be one of the most important tools in communication. Questions don’t have to be brilliant, but they do need to be wrapped in genuine curiosity and honesty. The response can cut through layers in one quick slice if the question is perceived to be genuine. 

    And I agree – there is nothing more frustrating that talking to a person who doesn’t show any emotion or expression on their face. Empathic listening is an incredibly powerful way of communicating with other people.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      I am with you on this one. Authenticity is worth so much in a conversation. If I know someone really cares it makes all the difference!

  • R.J. Devine

    Great post very helpful! I am going to apply these 5 things from now on! Thanks for posting!

  • http://www.hope101.net Lori Tracy Boruff

     I have a bad habit of asking questions that require a yes or no answer. Does anyone have suggestions on how to break this habit?  There, I did it again!!

  • http://www.smallbusinessmarketingsucks.com/ John Tabita

    My problem is the exact opposite; I’m not a talker … which is fine if I’m with someone who is. (Which is partly why, I suppose, I married who I married.) But when I find myself with someone who’s quiet like me, carrying on a conversation can became, well, awkward. I’ve since learned that your item #4, “Ask follow-up questions,” is a life-saver. Even the most introverted person will open up if you take a genuine interest and ask follow-up questions. Good stuff!

  • Anonymous

    Not interrupting is a rare and beautiful thing in conversations these days!

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  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad Puckett

    I wish I could say my learning is over in this regard and I am now a great conversationalist, but I fear I am still in school.  But I believe I am better than I used to be, and I know I want to improve.   Keeping myself in perspective is useful…I need to remember to frame the interaction in my head in a way that encourages the ping pong effect.  

  • Kerry D Collier

    I think that the “art of conversation” has been lost because it’s much more than communication of ideas, thoughts, or emotion. It’s uniquely a human experience that we can share ourseleves and exchange love towards one another as we were mean’t to do. (the James verse outlines this perfectly) Great post and great comments!

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  • http://charlielyons.ca Charlie Lyons

    Good thoughts here, Michael. I continue to strive for good conversations. I’ve been reminded several times recently about the importance of asking good questions. That’s definitely key to this process of good conversations.

    Thanks for your ongoing wisdom and insights.

  • Bani K. Benjamin

    I have been doing these that you outlined and it helps me alot so it is just encouraging me to do it the more. thanks

  • https://twitter.com/#!/drewbordas Drew Bordas

    The best advice I’ve been given is to “be interested, not interesting”.  Easier said than done though.

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

     I subbed on Sunday for the college-age teacher (actually used your wise and foolish article to direct conversation). As typical, I plowed through the material and filled up the silences (too long between teaching gigs). The best conversations took place after I “taught.” We were now off script and just talking. That’s when I heard some excellent ideas about how to connect with other college-age folks in town.

  • Dan

    Good stuff. I never thought about the subtle influence conversations can have on people. 

  • Bmwbear129

    Back in the day of my early management years we attended a class for the betterment of our teamwork.  We had taken an active listening class and boy did I learn that I had some VERY bad habits when it came to listening.  One I rolled my eyes in my head often, not because I was annoyed, simply because I was “looking up” in my head for what I was going to say next and the other issue was I never actively listened to any conversation I was participating in because I was too busy thinking about what I was going to say next.  I have grown a lot in the area of listen, yet I still have some improvements to make….just ask my teenagers:)

  • Neil

    I love the ratio that God gave us, two ears and one mouth! 

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  • http://colebradburn.com/ Cole Bradburn

    Conversational narcissists have become very common in the digital age (though I suppose they were always around) when true social interaction – face to face – is increasingly rare.  

    My grandfather always said that a conversation should have an ebb and flow, like the tide.  There should be a natural rhythm that shows itself as it progresses.

  • http://www.dennisbrooke.com/ Dennis Brooke

    This post is a classic and I can attest to the effectiveness of these principles. As a consultant I was once brought into a client who had already selected another vendor but was told by purchasing that they needed a competitive bid. After spending a week with management and staff at many levels and using these type of techniques we were selected to handle the project because we truly understood their problems and business.
    It resulted in a multi-million dollar project and long term business and personal relationships.
    On a personal level, I don’t learn nearly as much with my mouth open as with my ears open.

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    “Speak loudly and clearly and make eye contact.” This is how I instruct my boys (11 & 13), and this is a point I made when I taught speech classes years ago. If direct eye contact makes you too nervous, look at the bridge of the person’s nose. They can’t tell the difference between that and direct eye contact. For me, when someone is looking around when I’m talking to them, I just want to end the conversation and move on. They really aren’t fully present.

  • http://www.feedingnineonadime.com/ Jenifer Harrod

    Today I read this to my two boys Zach and Zeke and little Nora. Zach(10yrs.) liked the part about ping pong.  Zeke(9 years) learned talking is like a ping pong ball game. Its like hitting a ball back and forth except its with talking. Nora learned about ping pong (she’s 3) I learned a lot too.  I liked the point about hitting the ball back over the net. Thanks!

  • http://unknownjim.com/ Jim Woods

    Sometimes, a game of ping pong is not possible. We all have different personalities, likes and dislikes.  Sometimes others are very quiet and/or shy.  Try your best to not take offense to this.  Have a positive attitude and remain upbeat. 

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  • http://www.dwaynes--world.blogspot.com Dwayne Morris

    I call this “creating collisions.” The average person tends to avoid “colliding” with others, so to do so and do it well helps you stand out among the rest. When you collide, you have the opportunity to Listen, Learn and Leverage. Listen to others as they share. While this is going on, you should be searching for common ground…things you have in common. Then you will likely learn something new. Finally, take what you learn and leverage it for the good of others.

    These are great tips! Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.dental-management.net/ DentalAccountant

    Yes I agree with all this tips. These is really helpful. Glad you share it to us. And I think one thing that is important is that we know when to speak and when to listen and be attentive, Am i right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.freestone Mike Freestone

    We were given one mouth and two ears for a reason.  Very good tips that are good for anyone, in business or not.  In reading the recent book on Bonhoeffer their family was raised to make sure what they were saying was meaningful and relevant.  Very good training for everyone in the conversation of Life!

  • N_mott09

    I come from a family of talkers so listening has definitley been an area that I’ve struggled with my listening skills because if someone had something to say they would just over talk the other person until they got their points across. This article has helped me nd I will follow these insights to become an effective listener. Thanks everyone for your comments. As a young leader I need all the insight I can get. :-)

  • Mary Henderson

    My husband and I coined this phrase for ourselves: “More words mean less impact.” We try to be succinct with our wording to keep our listener engaged… Whether it’s our 17 year old son or a promising work connection.

  • http://twitter.com/grapejooooce David Welch

    A great deal of being conversational is empathy, which I am not good at. These are great points! Stephen Covey does an incredible job explaining this too in “7 Habits For Highly Effective People”: Seek to understand, then to be understood.

    Thanks for another great post! I’m currently working to improve my conversation skills(aren’t we all).

  • Javier Lee

    Thank you Micheal for yet another great write!! I’ve observed myself becoming more aware in conversations and catching myself waiting for him/her to end the sentences; wanting to say what I want to next, instead of listening intently to what they say. I will improve on this!Thanks Michael! “)

    Greetings from Singapore,

  • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

    Mike, in addition to being a huge inspiration to me, I have noticed something about you. When we meet, I am prepared with a list of questions I want to ask you and yet I find you’re first out of the gate with questions. Why? You are generally interested. You want to learn. You want to gain perspective. You make the other person important. I walk away thinking “wow! how does he do that?” and I can see you put the formula down in this post.
    And FINALLY, I am up to speed on how to comment and using Disqus, etc. I may be slow, but I’m now here.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your comment, Skip. You are such and encouragement to me!

      I am so glad you are up and running on Disqus. It is a marvelous system.

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  • Words of Wizedom

    My mom always compared conversations to passing a basketball back and forth. Same idea…

    I am such a bad conversationalist I created a website with tons of questions to help get convos started


  • Ankur V Misra

    “You can pick up a lot by paying attention to the non-verbal cues, including the other person’s eyes, their tone of voice, and their body language.”

    This is where I struggle most. I am not easy while talking to people and I’m too shy and nervous sometimes. I have been practicing a lot to be a better conversationalist. At first sight, nobody will say I am a shy and nervous guy while talking. It gets revealed as I spend more time talking. How can I improve?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Act your way into a new way of being. Act confident and your emotions will follow.

  • Danielle Chambers

    Thank you Michael for the great tips! I like that you said in your last paragraph that your ability has to do with you ability to lead a powerful conversation. There are so many wonderful leadership tips and shoulds and should not tips but being able to lead a powerful conversation is usually not seen.

  • Marnie

    I have learned that conversation is an activity-one which requires the full attention and effort of it’s participants. Body language and non verbal cues can often say more than the words being expressed. Like most activities, mindful practice is essential to honing quality communication skills. There is no such thing as a short cut when it comes to effective communication!