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How to Be a Better Conversationalist - WSJ.com


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It takes study and practice.

There is an art to elegantly starting, sustaining and ending a dialogue with strangers or friends. Experts call it conversational intelligence.

Conversation is key to connecting.

Casual conversation is essential social grease -- a ritual that helps us connect with friends, colleagues and people we've just met.

Rule of thumb: Focus on the other person.

You can develop your conversational intelligence. It isn't complicated, especially if you keep this rule of thumb in mind: Focus on the other person.

Good conversation is topic-building, so you should make links between subjects.

Great infographic:

how to be a better conversationalist infographic

A few more helpful tools:

Have a line ready for when you want the conversation to end. Ella Rucker, a 40-year-old freelance writer from Bronx, N.Y., smiles and says, "As much as I've enjoyed our conversation, I'll let you continue with your evening."

Mr. Swett's small-talk epiphany came several years ago, after he read Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." In 2010, he joined Toastmasters International, a group that helps people with public speaking. "I learned that people are mostly interested in themselves," says the 29-year-old Grand Rapids, Mich., software engineer. "If you talk to the other person about them, they'll be much more responsive and interested than if you talk about you."

In other words:

1. Talk with the other person about himself or herself.

2. Have an exit line ready for when you want to end the conversation.

The Dale Carnegie book is worth reading, and Toastmasters International is a good place to practice.

A great summary. I find it interesting that the ability to communicate/converse is arguably the most important fundamental skill we can have (it's the foundation for every relationship, right?), and yet we get so little training in it during our lives. I read Carnegie's book years ago and it definitely made an impact on my social intelligence. And I can vouch for Toasmasters as a fantastic way to both socialize and improve our communication skills.

I enjoyed this nice tip, especially when you want to expand beyond the business/work context:

Cathy Svacina, a 60-year-old marbles expert and tournament referee from Kansas City, Mo., likes to ask people what they do for fun. "That immediately tells me more about who they are than what they do for work," she says.

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