One key way to be regarded as a great conversationalist is to pause before replying. A short pause of just a few seconds helps you accomplish three goals simultaneously. First, you avoid running the risk of interrupting if the other person is simply catching his or her breath before continuing. Second, you show the other person that you are giving careful consideration to his or her words by not jumping in with your own comments at the earliest opportunity.
The third benefit of pausing is that you will actually hear the other person better. His or her words will soak into a deeper level of your mind and you will understand what he or she is saying with greater clarity. By pausing, you mark yourself as a brilliant conversationalist.
Another way to become a great conversationalist is to ask for clarification. Never assume that you understand what the person is saying or trying to say. Instead, ask, “How do you mean, exactly?”
Questioning the other person as to their meaning is a powerful way of controlling a conversation. When you ask for clarification the other person is compelled to answer more extensively. You can then follow up with other open-ended questions and keep the conversation rolling along.
Yet another technique to employ is to paraphrase the speaker’s words. After you’ve nodded and smiled, you can then say, “Let me see if I’ve got this right. What you’re saying is . . .”
By paraphrasing the speaker’s words, you demonstrate in no uncertain terms that you are genuinely paying attention and making every effort to understand his or her thoughts or feelings. This will result in other people finding you to be a fascinating conversationalist. They will want to be around you. They will feel relaxed and happy in your presence. The reason why listening is such a powerful tool in developing the art and skill of conversation is because listening builds trust. The more you listen to another person, the more he or she trusts you and believes in you.
Finally, good listening skills builds self-discipline in the listener. Because your mind can process words at 500-600 words per minute, and we can only talk at about 150 words per minute, it takes a real effort to keep your attention focused on another person’s words. If you do not practice self-discipline in conversation, your mind will wander in a hundred different directions.
The more you work at paying close attention to what the other person is saying, the more self-disciplined you will become. In other words, by learning to listen well, you actually develop your own character and your own personality.
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