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Nine Little Things to Improve Conversation


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		  Nine Little Things to Improve Conversation   

In serious conversation, and also in social small talk, little  things can have a big impact.   

As the song lyricist Kitty Kallen wrote in the romantic tune,  “Little Things Mean a Lot,” “say I look nice when I'm not” and  “send me the warmth of a secret smile . . .” because “little things  mean a lot.”   

Here are nine little things you can add to enhance the quality  of your conversations:   

1. Use the other person's name from time to time during the talking.  Such as “I agree with you, Betty, and will support your proposal.”  Our names are precious to us, and nearly everyone has a feel-good  experience when being addressed by name. “Gary, would you call  me tomorrow with the quote?”   

2. Instead of asking general questions such as “How's it going?”  ask specific personal questions like “How does your son like Dental  School?” Being specific shows that you remember details about  matters important to the other person, such as the family, special  interests, certain challenges. Routine and general questions usually  elicit only routine responses like “Fine, thanks.”   

3. Lighten up the talk with a smile. Even with serious topics, a  friendly smile can be appropriate and can add a measure of good will  that is helpful in advancing understanding. (Being serious tends to  suppress feelings and makes the tone of our conversation seem flat.)  Relax, drop your shoulders, breathe.   

4. Respect people's time for talking so that you don't hold them  hostage. If you're uncertain, ask “Do you have a few minutes to talk  now?” This is especially useful for telephone conversation.   

5. Give the other converser their turn to talk. You can do this by  talking in paragraphs, not chapters, and then signaling it's their turn  with a question like “What are your thoughts?”   

6. Adjust your voice controls for easy listening. These include  speed, volume, pitch, and tone of voice so that listening to you can  actually be pleasurable.   

7. Share some information of value to the other, perhaps a tip  like “I just found a great car mechanic, does good work and is really  reasonable.” Or “I know you like history, Fred, so you might enjoy  that new film June and I saw last week. It's about the Civil War.”   

8. When you're with someone, give your full attention.  The gift of your presence and attention is quietly powerful and  strengthens relationships. Fully engaged listening is rare in our  multi-tasking worlds of work and home. When you listen, just listen.  Don't wander.   

9. End your conversation gracefully and not abruptly. When  appropriate, thank or compliment the other person when you are  ending. “I really enjoyed talking with you and understand the  situation much better now. Thanks a lot.”   

These little things add a quality of civility and care to any conversation.  Ultimately, they mean a lot because your attitudes tend to be reciprocated.  When you pay attention and include these little things, others will often do these same things for you, and that makes for a satisfying talk.  


Loren Ekroth ©2012, All rights reserved.

Loren Ekroth, Ph.D. is a specialist in human communication and a national expert on conversation for business and social life.

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