One key to becoming a great conversationalist is to pause before
replying. A short pause, of three to five seconds, is a very classy
thing to do in a conversation. When you pause, you accomplish three
The Benefits of Pausing
First, you avoid running the risk of interrupting if the other person is
just 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
Another way to become a great conversationalist is to question for
clarification. Never assume that you understand what the person is
saying or trying to say. Instead, ask, "How do you mean, exactly?"
This is the most powerful question I've ever learned for controlling a
conversation. It is almost impossible not to answer. When you ask, "How
do you mean?" the other person cannot stop himself or herself from
answering more extensively. You can then follow up with other open-ended questions and keep the conversation rolling along.
Paraphrase the Speaker's Words
The third way to become a great conversationalist is to paraphrase the speaker's words in your own 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. And the wonderful thing is, when you practice effective listening, other people will begin to find you fascinating. They will want to be around you. They will feel relaxed
and happy in your presence.
Listening Builds Trust
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.
Listening also builds self-esteem. When you listen attentively to
another person, his or her self-esteem will naturally increase.
Listening Develops Discipline
Finally, listening 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.
Here are two things you can do immediately to put these ideas into
First, make a habit of pausing before replying in any conversation or
discussion. You will be amazed at how powerful this technique really is.
Second, continually ask, "How do you mean?" in response to anything that
is not perfectly clear. This gives you even more time to listen well.