Learning how to be a skilled conversationalist is important in terms of building positive relationships with other people both professionally and personally. Being able to speak to people with interest, ease and confidence will help conversations flow more easily and establish strong connections and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes with others. It will also help you to be more self-assured and prepared in any work or social situation that you may find yourself in.

Making conversations can be challenging, especially if you don’t know someone very well
or you lack confidence in certain situations
or have to share something that the other person may be defensive about.

Mastering the art of critical conversations is a very useful skill and can help you to manage conflict and break through potential communication barriers. These kinds of conversations, when handled well, will build confidence and trust in a relationship and focus constructively on specific issues that need to be dealt with.

There are is many way that you can help yourself to have great conversations and here are a few suggestions:

1. Plan and prepare

Whenever possible it is good to plan and prepare for a great conversation. Doing some preparation beforehand can help you research any information you may need. It will also help you to anticipate and prepare for difficult conversations and any challenges you may need to overcome. Clearly you must ensure that you are not rigid with your plan of the conversation and keep an open mind. A structured approach however can be helpful in establishing focus.

2. Choose your timing

It is really important to get your timing right especially if you are going to discuss a sensitive issue. You need to think about the other person and what is best for them. So ensure that you choose the best possible time and setting for the conversation.

3. Ask the right questions

A great conversation is the exchange of quality information and often this may be about encouraging detailed explanations. Asking open questions can be very useful. These questions begin with how, why, what, which, when, where and who.

Asking people to describe situations can be helpful ways of enhancing conversations so ask questions like What was that like? Why did you decide to do that? and How do you feel about that?

4. Be present and listen

The key to a great conversation is to be fully present. Mobile technology can be extremely distracting for both yourself and the person you are having the conversation with. Being present and fully engaged is of paramount importance so be sure to manage any potential distractions in advance.

Opening your mind and hearing what the other person has to say is about actively listening to the words that are coming out of their mouth and not simply waiting for the opportunity to speak. You can indicate that you are actively listening through both physical and verbal cues. Active listening makes the other person feel valued and respected, which in turn will encourage the flow of the conversation. Remember, when you listen, you learn.

5. Be interested and interesting

Occasionally you meet people who have so much to say it’s a bit like trying to have a conversation with the radio. Whilst it’s good to have interesting things to talk about, it is also important to be genuinely interested in what other people have to share.

The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard

William Hazlitt

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  • Liggy Webb

    Presenter and author

    Liggy Webb is an award winning and bestselling author, presenter and international consultant specialising in life skills. She is also the founding director of The Learning Architect, an international consortium of life skills specialists. She is recognised as a thought leader on personal resilience and wellbeing and works with a wide range of businesses helping people to be more resilient, agile and healthy in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Some of the organisations that Liggy works with include the BBC, the NHS, Macmillan Cancer Support, the World Trade Organisation,
the United Nations, Sainsbury’s, The Walt Disney Company, Ralph Lauren and various universities
 and public sector organisations. Liggy believes that the diversity of the clients she works with provides her with a tremendous insight
 into the challenges that people currently face across all sectors. Her current book, Resilience: How To Cope When Everything Around You Keeps Changing, is a practical and accessible guide for coping with change and offers advice on how to recover and flourish through challenging times. The guiding principles in the book have just been televised for a series with the BBC world service due out in 2019.