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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Master the Art of Conversing

Many people think that good conversation consists mainly of "having a way with words." That is, being clever, articulate, and witty. 

1. Ideally, conversation is collaboration, not a performance. It is a process that should be "we-centered" rather than "I-centered." Persons able to collaborate in the give and take of conversation are demonstrating one of the very best practices.
2. High tolerance of differences others might have, such as political or religious views or values. Such a tolerance allows you to listen to most people without becoming emotionally upset.
3. Curiosity. Basically, this means being genuinely interested in and curious about other people and their ideas. When you hold rigid views about others, you don't inquire and you stop learning new things. When you are truly curious, you can even be open to being wrong on a certain topic and willing to change your mind.
4. Listening, the forgotten skill  You might notice that if you rearrange the letters of listen you'll find silent. Add the skill of careful attention and seeking to understand and you'll be in a small and elite minority of conversers. The ability to remain comfortable with silence during a conversation (and without having to fill the silence with chatter) is a wonderful skill to practice and install.
5. Brevity: The ability to express yourself succinctly. One of the most egregious but avoidable conversation habits is "blabber-mouthing" - rambling on and on, leaving little air-time for your conversational partner(s). Can you be simple and direct and brief? If so, you'll stand apart from others.
6. Having a listenable voice Do others get pleasure when they hear your voice? Is it clearly audible? Are its qualities pleasant? As it happens, the voice we speak with is heard differently by others - which is why talkers are surprised when they hear their own recorded voice for the first time. "That doesn't sound like me," they'll say.
7. Being congruent and authentic 
"When there is a discrepancy between our private and public selves, we suffer from "incongruity," a term I learned from the legendary psychologist Carl Rogers many years ago. The word "congruence" derives from a Latin word for harmony, and the psychological sense of the word is that there is a harmony between the way we truly are and the way we present ourselves to the world."
Congruence is a behavior demonstrated when our expressive systems are aligned. Our emotions match our words; our facial expressions and body language say the same thing.
Authenticity of a quality of being so that what we say is what we really mean. You are then "the real deal." What others hear and see is transparently genuine.

Hope one of these seven best practices would be most helpful for you to make your own.
Suggestion: Choose one with the biggest pay-off and little by little, add it to your repertoire of conversation skills.

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