Louise Thompson: The art of conversation
Is the art of conversation dead? I know you are thinking I am going to bang on about social media and how we are all too busy looking at our phones to look up and talk to other people — and there is certainly some truth to that — but it’s not where I am going today. I want to talk about how to have better conversations. If we could raise the quality of our conversations we could dramatically increase the quality of our relationships and our baseline of connection and happiness.
Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking. It’s as much about hearing what isn’t being said, as it is waiting for the gap so you can have your say. Good conversation is about creating a feeling state where you and the other person feel seen and heard. It’s about feeling “got”. It’s more than a fact exchange, it’s about creating a connection and feeling understood.
There is so much talking going on but often so little actually being said. Or so little being heard. There are too many times where you find you are playing the part of the audience, rather than co-conversationalist. It gets boring very quickly. Conversation is about connection, not just fact exchange. Good conversation is about the co-creation of a moment together, not just talking at someone. Here’s how you can raise the quality of your conversations:
Be interested, as well as interesting. That means listening. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in according proportions. Assume the other person has something of equal interest to say as you do and start there.
Ask follow-up questions. It’s not enough to listen just so you can say your thing. Ask a follow-up question or comment on what they said before you launch into your thing. A “That sounds tricky, how did you handle that?” or “I would never have expected that, how did that feel for you?” makes the other person feel heard, and lets them hold the conversational ball for a little longer.
Non-verbal cues are a huge part of effective conversation. Nodding, smiling, frowning, uh-huhing. They are cues that say, “I’m with you, I‘m listening, go on”. Use liberally.
We call it the ART of conversation. Not the science of conversation. There is meant to be a beauty, a flow, a finesse to it. It’s meant to create a feeling state. It’s not just a fact dump. Conversation can be so much more. Just changing your tone when you deliver a fact or a comment can elevate the conversation from mundane to loving or compassionate.
Silence can be golden. Pauses in a conversation don’t have to be awkward. They can be the ultimate sign of comfort and confidence to hold silence with someone. Companionable silence can be reverential and valuable. The micro-pauses between the notes are what make music; without them, it would be noise. It’s the same with conversation. Don’t be afraid of the silence, some people need a little longer to process and gather their thoughts — honour that with relaxed silence.
Great conversation can be so powerful that the effects can resonate and reverberate for decades — for good, or for ill. Take it from audience to genuine connection. Elevate from facts to feeling. Listen hard. Talk less. Say more. Feel heard. Genuinely connect.
Life coach Louise Thompson helps people unlock their happiest and healthiest life. Find more at louisethompson.com