How to master the art of conversation

As much as you would like to hide in the toilets at work events/parties/family dinners, seeking sanctuary from the social angst that is so synonymous with the like, the art of conversation with your fellow attendees is a necessity to succeed in almost every aspect of life. Here are six cardinal rules to set you on your way to becoming a smooth talker and an accomplished conversationalist.

A strong first impression
It has been said that first impressions are made within a seven-second window, establish a connection from the outset with openness and warmth to create an environment of trust. Tip: Showing more interest in the person opposite you rather than vocally assaulting them with who you are is sure to get any interaction off to a roaring start.

Do the dance
And we don’t mean whisking your new acquaintance away for a foxtrot. No, this dance is the figurative one we do upon first meeting to get a better sense of character. What are her views on this? How does he respond when I say that? It is the essential foreplay to understanding whether two people have anything in common, confirming whether the ensuing conversation will be fraught or engaging.

Ease into intimacy
When progressing past the initial stages of small talk, do not, for heaven’s sake, see this as a green light to lunch into heavy questioning. Only after a mutual camaraderie is established will the impulse to discuss feelings naturally materialise — it’s the old adage of leading a horse to water. There’s no point in trying to elicit something from someone who is not yet ready to give.

Listening is key 
This truly means listening and reacting in real time. Never pretend to listen. We’ve all done it — a conversation partner alludes to something for which you have a fitting anecdote, resulting in your only listening in order to determine an opportune moment to cut in. It’s an easy path to follow, especially when dealing with particularly loquacious individuals. Trust us when we say that listening will afford you the intriguing insights you crave and allow for authentic connection. Be sure to talk to someone rather than at them. Put the megaphone away and chomp down on a slice of humble pie — no one wants to be lectured.

Open your mind
Entering a discussion with preconceived notions of who someone is or where they are coming from will never result in fruitful chemistry. The conversation is already over before it has begun, so disregard what you consider acceptable and allow yourself the opportunity to see things from another’s perspective. Even if it pains you, the learning will prove invaluable.

Exit with elegance 
should you want to bring a conversation to a premature end, ensure you do so with class. Make a conclusive, positive comment summarising the interaction, or invite a third party to the conversation and gradually slip silently into the shadows. A polite excuse to do with some previous or sudden engagement is a no-brainer: ‘I’m so sorry Ruth, but I think my house is on fire and I must hasten home,” or even “Thank you, Jenny, for asking me at length about my recent breakup. I’m afraid I have to go home now and stick a fork in my eye.” Subtle and believable.

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