Monday, September 15, 2014

Conversation Concentration.

There are some people who are just fun to be around; fun to talk to. They aren't so backward that they're afraid to get past "Hi. How are you?" but not so brash as to only talk about themselves. Those are the conversational skills that I admire - the kind that gently draws the other person out of their shell and makes them feel cared-for, without them feeling overwhelmed at the idea of having to hold up half of the conversation.

I used to try to be reserved. My sister informs me that it never worked. Still, there's not a doubt in people's minds whether or not I "like to talk" nowadays. Truth is, I do enjoy a fun conversation, but I was a little surprised when someone once mentioned how talkative I was.

Being a preacher's kid, means having lots of company over at the house. Lots. After a few years, I finally figured out that being reserved and respectable was very important - but there comes a point when you get tired of waiting for the other person to answer another "So, what's your favorite thing to do, back home?" kind of question; a point when you both get tired of sitting across from each other in complete, awkward boredom, fishing for something else to say. That's when I decided that I needed to step out of my awkwardness and just...fix it. {Laugh! Be dramatic! Put some PERSONALITY into it!}

Through trial and error, I figured out that there is also vast difference between yacking on and on and on with great detail and dramatic pointlessness about oneself, and cultivating an interesting conversation. Conversational skill is a lost art; and it takes bravery and good judgment to perfect it. {That is, if there is such a thing as perfecting it.}

I have certainly not perfected it, and, thus,  I find it interesting to study the fundamentals of conversing. If I could knock what I've learned down into some nice easy-to-follow points, I would probably do it like this:

  • Get past yourself. Really, it's not about you. It's about entertaining your guest. Face your fear!
  • Tell Stories. Don't just stick with the typical, "Oh, yes. I enjoy cooking, too. <insert smile>. Break off into a story about your latest cooking flop that will entertain the other person - chances are, this would open up a few stories that they'd be willing to share.
  • Always Express Interest In What They Have To Say. While (with a quiet person), you may have to carry more than your half of the convo, try not to be so focused on being "the court jester" that the other person can't get a word in edgewise - be sure to acknowledge their input, ask questions about them, and laugh at their jokes.

    Basic? Yes. But very challenging.

    So, I'm curious; what do you think? Any pointers on hostessing or conversations?


Virginia said...

coming from and introvert: this is very hard for me with new people I've never talked to before. And when you have an Extrovert husband... well, it's even harder haha!

Anna said...

lol:) You've always seemed to have a nice, friendly personality, Virginia. I've never noticed you having a hard time with keeping up a pleasant conversation. It is "technically" harder for an "introvert" - but you do a nice job getting past it. :)