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Lesson 2: Improve Your Conversation Skills

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Improve your conversation skills

Strong conversation skills can make a big difference in the workplace. Knowing how to share an attentive, friendly discussion will give you more confidence and help you build better relationships. As you improve your skills, you’ll become a more thoughtful listener, give sharper responses, and learn how to handle common mistakes.

Watch the video below to learn about some of the reasons why miscommunications happen in conversations.

Listening

When you listen to someone, put the focus on them. Don’t get stuck in your own thoughts or play with your phone or fall into other distractions. Give them the attention you’d want if they were listening to you. While they speak, let them know they have your attention. Make eye contact, nod as they speak, and give verbal interjections occasionally, such as yeah or OK.

As the other person shares, ask relevant questions to give them further chances to express themselves. Be curious about the other person! For instance, if they’re talking about a tough presentation they just gave, ask how they felt when they finished. Think about questions you would like to be asked if you were in the other person's position.

Responding

The first thing you can do is simple: slow down. Speaking faster won’t gain or hold anyone’s attention, as it only makes you more difficult to understand. Remember to breathe as you speak, which will also slow you down and give you time to think. Have faith in your words, and assume you have their attention.

To make your part of the conversation memorable and engaging, keep your words brief and to the point. Imagine you’re telling a story, and you’re cutting all the unnecessary details in order to leave only the powerful parts. While it may be tempting, try to avoid asides into trivial details that add no real value. Repeatedly going off into random tangents is a quick way to lose people’s interest.

Take care when having any sort of debate in the workplace. When you agree with someone, feel free to express yourself. But whenever you disagree, keep your response low key and polite. You don’t want a lighthearted discussion about movies or company policy turning into something angry and serious. Instead, ask thoughtful questions to better understand their point of view.

Sharing a conversation is all about finding balance. You don’t want to dominate the conversation, but you don’t want to stay quiet the entire time either. Find a healthy rhythm so everyone has the opportunity to share, listen, and contribute.

Making mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes during conversations. It’s perfectly normal! However, it’s how you deal with these mistakes that truly matters. For instance, if you said something inappropriate, it's important to admit your fault, apologize, and make it right. It’s best to resolve these types of problems quickly rather than let them linger.

Interruptions ruin the flow of a conversation fast, even if you don’t mean to do it. If you interrupt someone, offer a quick "sorry" or "go ahead," and that should be enough to keep the conversation moving. To avoid future interruptions, pay attention to the rhythm of their speech to hear when they’re finished discussing a thought.

Many people think silence during a conversation is bad, leading them to panic when it happens. However, it can also be useful. Silence is often a natural way to bring up a new subject or include someone new into the conversation. And sometimes it’s natural to be silent together, especially if you're comfortable with the other person. And if you want to leave the conversation, silence can be the perfect time to make a friendly farewell. Whatever you do, stay confident and relaxed.

Learning these skills will take plenty of practice, but improving them could change your life in so many ways. Practice one or two tips for a few weeks until they become habits, then practice a few more at the same pace. Soon they’ll become second nature, and your conversations will flow with confidence.

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