As a talk therapist for the last 15 years, I have witnessed firsthand the profound impact that authentic communication can have on relationships and overall well-being. The ability to partake in meaningful conversations is a powerful tool that can engender secure connections, facilitate our personal growth and enhance our own happiness.

Viewing conversation as an “art” is incredibly valuable and will open doors to new relationships, strengthen existing relationships, and help us get the love, respect and appreciation that we crave. Whether we are at professional events, catching up with old friends, or making small talk with the strangers sitting in the seats next to us, being an awesome conversationalist can enrich many aspects of our lives. Because language is the way we frame the world both in our minds and in our public speech.

Some people find it challenging to express themselves clearly, while others have difficulty paying attention, maintaining engagement or leaving room for others to speak. However, with mindfulness and practice, anyone can become a more appealing conversationalist. Here are some tips to help you master the art of conversation:

1. Have an authentic sense of wonder, be genuinely curious

We all have biases and prejudices whenever we interact with others: we expect certain levels of cleanliness, of decorum, of physical distance, of emotional range, eye contact etc. Check in with your own observations about your interlocutor and then compassionately check in with them to see how they describe their emotional, mental and physical states of being. Be genuinely curious about how they are feeling.

To that end…

2. Be mindful about the way you construct questions

Ask open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” often lead to stagnant conversations. Ask open-ended questions that invite the other person to elaborate and share more details. For example, instead of asking, “Did you have a good weekend?” try “What did you do this weekend that was fun?” Open-ended questions foster deeper connections and keep the conversation flowing naturally.

3. Active listening, attuning, mirroring and matching

Active listening involves maintaining eye contact, nodding, and asking follow-up questions to demonstrate our interest in what the other person is saying. Regarding active listening you can also think about “attuning” to the other person’s energy as well as mirroring their facial affects (expressions) and matching their body language.

4. Reflective listening

One of the most crucial aspects of effective communication is being able to reflect back what you have heard. When we practice reflective listening we make the other person feel heard and seen, we validate their emotional experience. “So what you’re saying is that….” or “So if I hear you correctly, you…”

5. Share relatable stories and experiences

We are all seeking to connect with “members of our tribe,” like-minded people who we can trust. People are drawn to stories and personal experiences because they create a sense of connection and understanding. Contribute anecdotes or personal stories that relate to the topic of conversation establishing common ground and building rapport. When common interests are discovered, explore them further to keep the conversation flowing.

6. Show empathy

One of the most powerful tools in a psychotherapist’s arsenal is the ability to show genuine empathy. Empathy is equally important in building meaningful connections. By acknowledging and validating the other person’s feelings or experiences, we create a safe and supportive environment for open communication. Again, maintaining eye contact, mirroring facial affect (expressions), and responding with thoughtful nods or follow-up questions and avoiding distractions are all ways to convey our sincere investment in the conversation.

7. Sometimes less is more

Notice if the conversation is as close to 50/50 as possible — 50% of you talking and 50% of the other person talking. This may mean tuning in to other person’s energy and slowing yourself down if you find you are monopolizing the airways.

8. Be precise

I was taught not to use two words when one would suffice. You may also notice yourself and other people peppering perfectly good sentences with words like “actually” and “literally,” or using trendy words like “multiple” instead of “several.” Some people try to appear smarter by using words that they do not command. When in doubt of the definition of a word, keep your diction simple and clear.

9. Try not to finish other people’s sentences for them

Finishing someone’s sentence for them is rude and presumptuous. Be patient, be respectful. Listen and make the other people aware that you respect what they have to say.

10. Gratitude

There is almost never a bad time to express gratitude. It can help set or change the tone of a conversation. “It’s so good to see you!” or “It’s great to meet you!” or “I’m so happy to be here!” put the conversation on a positive track.

Bonus: Change “Yes, but…” to “Yes, AND…”

The way we arrive at truth is often through a dialectic: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. However, it often can be contrarian and negative to be the person saying, “Yes, but…”. For the next week change your “Yes, but…” responses to “Yes, AND…” and observe the difference in how people relate to you.

Mastering the art of conversation takes mindfulness and practice as well as a willingness to step outside our comfort zones. By implementing the above techniques, we can become more inviting conversationalists, engender more profound attachments and enhance our overall well-being. Remember, the key is to strike a balance between sharing and listening, be authentically curious, and make an effort to truly connect with other people.