Absolutely everyone has to communicate
all the time. There's no way to avoid it forever. No matter
what walk of life you find yourself in, talking to other people
is a necessity.
In order to succeed in business
and in interpersonal relationships, you must be able to speak
with others. Some have no trouble giving presentations at work,
yet have great difficulty making small talk at parties. Different
situations require different reactions; this is what keeps the
shy person out of the game.
In order to get what you want
and need in life, in order to negotiate for your benefit or
that of others, it's essential that you be able to communicate,
to connect with the world.
The first step in this essential
communications is your body language. A smile is the opening
salvo in this battle to communicate with the world. A smile
says, "I'm friendly and I'd love to talk with you."
Add to that friendly smile, a "hello" and you have
the perfect conversation opener. Couple the smile and the hello
with a firm handshake and you now have a perfect icebreaker.
Now your stance says a lot about
you too. An open stance (arms to your sides) indicates a readiness
to communicate. Standing with your arms folded says, "I'm
not open to talk, leave me alone."
Leaning forward slightly,
when listening to others speak, shows you're interested
in them and in what they are saying. This will make others
more comfortable and inclined to talk with you. Leaning
away from the speaker indicates a desire to escape, that
you're basically disinterested in what he has to say.
Of course, be certain you
make eye contact. Refusing to look someone in the eye makes
you appear disinterested, or even suspiciously sneaky, as
if you're up to something. It's okay to glance away occasionally
while your mind is formulating a reply to a question posed.
But be careful not to just stare unblinkingly at the person.
That will only make them uncomfortable and want to flee.
A fixed stare can make you appear aggressive and challenging
and could result in a defensive reaction.
A simple nod of your head
while the other person is speaking sends a positive signal
too. It says, "I'm listening and I'm interested, please
Your tone of voice carries
a lot of weight too. A friendly tone and the right words
will create an impression of friendly openness, a willingness
Keep in mind the words of
Emily Post who cautions, "Ideal conversation must be
an exchange of thought, and not, as many of those who worry
most about their shortcomings believe, an eloquent exhibition
of wit or oratory." Those who try too hard to be witty
or eloquent frequently find themselves alone at parties
for no one can bear an obnoxious person for very long.
How to Start
Did you know you only have
about five seconds to make a first impression? That's how
long it takes to introduce yourself and catch the other
person's name. And whatever you do, try and catch that name
and then use it right away. Dale Carnegie said, "The
sweetest sound in any language is a person's name.
The number one reason we
forget a person's name seconds after we've been introduced
is because we weren't focusing on that moment. We're too
busy trying to figure out what to say next or even worrying
about what they'll think of us.
As soon as you gain their
name, use it immediately. "It's so nice to meet you,
John." You can introduce John to a third party. Try
to connect the name to something you'll remember later to
further imbed the name into your consciousness. Be sure
to use his name again when you say goodbye.
To be an excellent conversationalist,
you must look outside yourself and focus on the people around
you and the events in motion. If all you can think of is
whether they like you, what they think of you, and whether
they are judging you and your actions, it's guaranteed to
make you feel self-conscious. It's better to look outward
and become attuned to what's going on around you. This will
enlarge your available topic repertoire as well.
Starting a conversation
needn't be terrifying or mind boggling. Try these simple
steps to get a conversation going: