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Conversation Mastery Test

By Loren Ekroth

Instructions: Rate yourself on each of these 25 proficiencies:
  • almost never
  • sometimes
  • usually
  • almost always

  1.     I engage others tactfully and effectively. I initiate conversation and make it easy for others to connect with me.

  2.     I tune in to others and quickly get in sync with them. I understand how to manage the give-and-take of a conversation.

  3.     I am able to maintain and continue a conversation. After I have connected, I draw others out so our conversation can develop.

  4.     I respond during conversations and show this in my face, body, eyes, and voice. I maintain a high energy level and am “alive” to the ongoing situation.

  5.     I listen attentively and hear what is actually said. I empathize and listen “between the lines” for subtle meanings, not just for the literal level of meaning.

  6.     I know how to check for my accuracy of understanding. If I don’t understand or am confused, I check with the speaker.

  7.     I can speak and listen at the same time (“full - duplex mode.”) I am not preparing my response instead of listening.

  8.     I use a variety of types of questions, such as closed, open, indirect, and “if” questions. I do not bombard others with lots of questions.

  9.     I have an excellent vocabulary and am sensitive to verbal distinctions. My language is precise, not vague. I use fresh language and avoid clichés, profanity, and big show-off words.

  10.     I am well-informed with up-to-date information and am able to discuss what is happening in my community and nation as well as topics of special interest like films or sports.

  11.     I have some special knowledge and expertise and share it when it is invited and appropriate.

  12.     I am flexible and adjust my language and manner to allow for differences in gender, culture, age, education, and status.

  13.     I can improvise and be creative so that I can take conversational detours away from predictable topics. When I wish to, I tactfully change the subject.

  14.     I am comfortable even when I don’t know much about a topic and I am able to carry on by inquiring, listening, and being a learner. I do not feel threatened by not knowing.

  15.     My voice is modulated so that people find it easy to listen to me. I am vocally expressive, even colorful. My voice holds listeners’ attention and clarifies my intended meanings.

  16.     I pause and use silence skillfully. I have a good sense of when it is best for me to talk and when to remain silent.

  17.     I tell stories and anecdotes with colorful language and animation. My stories are my own, not borrowed from others.

  18.     For greatest impact and clarity, I use a good sense of timing and emphasis when conversing.

  19.     I balance my talking and listening and do not dominate conversations. I make sure others have their opportunity to talk.

  20.     I do not block the flow of conversation with interruptions or distractions, and I avoid contradicting with phrases like “Yes, but . . .” Instead, I add to and build upon the conversation.

  21.     I show interest in others and their ideas. I respond with civility and encouragement and avoid putting others down.

  22.     When I encounter difficult or hostile persons and verbal bullies, I protect myself skillfully without becoming hostile like them.

  23.     I collaborate rather than compete in a conversation. I do not hog the center of attention, and usually I can make a conversation mutual and reciprocal.

  24.     I am sensitive to privacy and do not pry into others’ personal or intimate details. Also, when appropriate, I can and do reveal myself to others.

  25.     I remember the names of people I meet, and I use their names during the conversation. When I’m not sure how to pronounce a person’s name, I politely ask.


  • 91-100 = masterful
  • 81-90 = proficient
  • 71-80 = competent
  • 61-70 = adequate
  • 51-60 = limited
  • below 50 = needs to build skills

Scores in the 25-75 range can easily improve their skills. To do so immediately, consult appropriate free articles on the website,

Note: It is common for people to give themselves high scores because they don’t know how they affect others.
Another way to use this self-test is to ask others (such as friends) to give you feedback about your conversational habits that are based upon how your conversation impacts them.