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Seven Ways to be a Good Conversationalist

Updated on September 19, 2008

Seven Ways to be a Good Conversationalist

  1. Be interested. Be interested in what’s going on, what’s being talked about, the other fellow and what’s he’s doing. Be interested, not just one person you know very well, but in all the persons in the group. Let your gaze move from eye to eye. Pick out the person who hasn’t said much, who looks ill at ease, and make a special point of talking to him.
  2. Be friendly. Conversation withers if you are critical of the persons present, or a caustic about their contributions, or show, by your expression, that you don’t think much them. Don’t be so misled as to ape the trading of insults that goes on among professional comedians. Their feuds are carefully concocted by their gag writers, to spice up what might otherwise be a dull script.
  3. Be cheerful, good humored. Smile. Make it an interested, friendly smile. Show your good feelings in the way you say things. Leave your tragic mask at home. Don’t try to get people to gather round by exhibiting what a hurt, misunderstood soul you are.
  4. Be animated, and yet relaxed. You’re alive, so let your face and gestures show it. Time enough for immobility when rigor mortis sets in. But good conversation also has a certain calmness, a feeling of relaxation about it. It isn’t work, strained and effortful. It plays activity, a refreshing rest from work.
  5. Be flexible. Topics change, and people, and moods. The good conversationalist changes them. Tenacity is a quality we admire in a bulldog, and rigidity in a ramrod. But neither of these qualities has a place in conversation.
  6. Be tactful. Follow that old adage; thing before you speak think first ; not afterwards. That is the essence of tactfulness. If your neighbor’s son has been expelled from school, stay far away from the topic of college requirements when chatting with him, or any talk about the irresponsibility of youth.
  7. Be courteous. One could make a presentable case for the idea that good Conversation is good manners. This does not mean merely remembering to say “Please, “ when asking for something, or thanking one’s host for a pleasant evening upon leaving. It does mean having a general attitude of consideration for others.

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