It’s good to learn the art of conversation. You will meet interesting people and effectively express your ideas.

When people give you access to their lives, do not serve a constant stream of “Hello” and “Hi”. Say something substantive quickly. Learn how to actively participate in the conversation. Even a salutation can have substance by personalizing it, introducing yourself and providing context as to how you know the individual.

An orphan “Hi” by a stranger will rarely get responded to. Persistently dropping random hellos without a follow up discussion will wear the receiver out, and you will soon be ignored.

Conversation: A Revered Artform

Learning the art of conversation can make a salutation more meaningful. For instance: “Hello [first and last name]. I am XYZ and I got to know you from [insert the person or place you have in common]. I would love to [insert reason for reaching out]. Have a lovely day”.

Did you see what I did there?

There was a greeting. But I introduced myself and provided context on how we met or how I know the person, even if that meeting place was online. I included the reason for reaching out. Finally, I deliberately used first and last name. Depending on the culture, try not to call people by first name or nickname until they give you permission to do so.

Here’s another example – this is for when the person has already provided their number and you have started some conversation:

“Hi Subomi. Gosh, today was raining cats & dogs! I barely survived the Lagos flood! ???? How was your day? Anything interesting happen?”

Here, I’ve used evocative language and humor to grab the person’s attention. I’ve also shared something about my own day while enquiring about theirs. This is a better way to participate in a conversation than asking, “How was your night?” ????

A Journal, a Day…

Sometimes, debilitating shyness and fear prevent us from communicating. We have a lot to say, but cannot articulate it. Organizations like Toastmasters have helped many in this regard, guiding them through the learning process of making good conversation.

Other times, we have nothing to say because we are not interesting ourselves. But you can change this by fully showing up in the world. Here’s how I do so. I journal everyday by asking myself six questions:

What am I grateful for?

Did I do anything meaningful?

Am I looking forward to something?

Did anything interesting happen?

Was anything pleasurable?

What am I proud of?

Journaling keeps me accountable. For instance, if I’m falling behind on meaning, it’s a reminder to cancel meetings for product development sessions instead. If nothing interesting or pleasurable happens for days, I know it’s time to do something fun. Being proud of myself bolsters my confidence and self-appreciation.

Asking these questions takes me from mindless running around to concrete activity. I become deeper and more reflective. Someone who pays attention, learns from experience and creates conversation topics.

Finally, journaling means I’m constantly learning how things happen everyday. And that gives me great fodder for conversation.

Know Your Audience

Another thing that the art of conversation promotes is learning how to be interested in others.

Are you impatient? Do you barely wait for people to stop speaking so you can quickly share your own opinion? Or do you sit with what people say, considering it?

Are you able to ask thoughtful follow-up questions and do you share perspectives when asked? Do you take the trouble to learn about people, before you meet and have conversations with them? Can you recall something that happened during the day that someone else might find interesting? Have you any gist to contribute or are you solely a consumer of other people’s gist? Are you the type to wait for others to carry the conversation while you chill?

The ability to connect with people through conversation enriches your life. That is why you should prioritize it. You ought to take an hour to rest from your day before you call people. This is so you can put your best foot forward and not show up exhausted.

Learning about real conversation goes beyond small talk about the weather, work, place of origin or Alma Mata. It’s more than, “How was your day?”

It’s about discussing common interests. It is celebrating people and making them feel better because they spoke to you.

If you can learn the art of conversation and do it well, you will surely win many friends.

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