Communication · Listening skills · Thinking on Your Feet

The Secret to Being Good a Conversationalist

Listen carefully + Response techniques = Sharp Communication Skills


Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who did not seem to be listening to you or interested in what you had to say? Were they looking around the room, not acknowledging you, or did you have to repeat yourself? How did you feel? Unimportant, undervalued, disrespected?

On the other hand, have you ever been engaged in a conversation with someone who made you feel comfortable and at ease? Looking back did that person really say much during that conversation? I am guessing they did not but somehow you left the conversation feeling that they were easy to talk with and that you were important. Would you say they had good communication skills?

The secret to a good conversationalist is to be interested and engaged in conversation. Being a good conversationalist is not as much about being a chatterbox as it is about being a good listener.


Being a good listener can be a challenge especially when the subject matter does not interest you; however, by listening carefully to others, and striving to show interest in them, you will learn things about them that you can use to build bridges or start conversations with them at another time.

A good conversationalist knows that people enjoy talking about themselves or their interests and that they will open up more easily when they like you and feel comfortable with you. People will like you and feel comfortable when you:

  • Become aware of your body language and facial expressions. Your body language and facial expressions speak volumes.  What would you be conveying to the other person?
  • Let the person finish their point before sharing your thoughts.
  • Get a visual picture of what the person is saying to become (and remain) engaged in the conversation.
  • Acknowledge the person by agreeing with them, conveying sympathy and empathy, responding appropriately, showing understanding, giving feedback, asking questions for clarification, or summarizing their main points.
  • Approach conversations as learning opportunities; when you do this, you will be open to the other person’s opinions and experiences leading you to listen carefully.
  • Stay in the moment:  When you stay in the moment you will be engaged and all the other elements of being a good listener fall into place.


What is your first reaction when confronted with the unexpected? Anxiety? The thoughts that might come to mind are, “How do I handle this?”, “What do they expect from me?”, “I don’t know what to say to that?”, “I am not prepared.”; however, focusing on these thoughts will only make you more nervous.

Sharp communication skills not only involves listening carefully but also involves responding to the unexpected or unusual by mastering the following three techniques:

  1. Pause, breathe, repeat:   When caught off guard the best thing to do before responding is to pause, take a deep breath, and, if appropriate, repeat or rephrase the question or statement. This process gives you a chance to relax and gather your thoughts which allows you to communicate more clearly and precisely or handle a situation more calmly.
  2. Redirect:   Traffic is redirected by a detour sign. A child’s attention is redirected by a new toy. Conversation is redirected by picking out a particular part of a question or topic and focusing on it.
  3. Revert back: To revert back means to go back to something else. Using the revert back technique during conversation means you refer back to a previous topic.

Keep in mind: To make a good impression and avoid offending someone when asked an unexpected question, do not ignore the question but instead address the question and then, if necessary, angle the conversation down another path. Also, if you do not know the answer to a question do not be afraid to say so. Simply say, “I don’t know.” or say something such as, “I don’t know. Can I get back to you?” or “I don’t know. Chris has been working on that and he should know the answer.”

Interacting with other people requires being a good conversationalist.  A good conversationalist possess sharp communication skills and is someone who is interested and engaged in conversation.

NEXT STEP:  Below tell me one way you will practice listening carefully and being engaged during you next conversation.

Next week I will share with you The Secrets for Planning for the Unexpected.  Click “Follow” at the top right-hand corner of this post so you don’t miss upcoming tips for managing life’s chaos!

Make this your best day,


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Angie R. Boecker is a specialist in managing life’s chaos.  She is the author of two books, Effective Grant Writing: Submit a Stronger Application and The Secrets to Thinking on Your Feet and a blog entitled The Travel Element.  As a public speaker, Angie has spoken to audiences on topics that help them manage life’s chaos.

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