Giving others advice for improving their conversation skills is very tricky.
People often expect formulaic instructions on how to talk to other people. And this probably happens to a large extent because many authors out there offer this kind of instructions. They will boldly tell you to do this, then do that, then say this, then say that, and you’ll have amazing conversations and everybody will love you.
Years ago, when I first started training others in improving their conversation skills, I was eager to give this kind of advice as well. But in time, especially by coaching others one-on-one, I came to realize this is a bad approach to helping people develop good conversation skills.
The Dynamics of Conversation
You see, conversation has one interesting attribute. It’s something that doesn’t need to be done in one single way in order to go well. In fact, there are many styles of conversation that work, just as there are many conversation styles that don’t work.
Most of the people I call my friends are very charismatic and socially skilled individuals. But if you would bring them to the same party and observe them, you’d notice that they have very different styles of talking to people. They are clear similarities, but there are also clear differences between them.
One is high energy and jokes around all the time, one rarely makes jokes but captivates people with his ideas, one has a more brazen, bad-boy attitude in conversation, and one is really good at making people feel appreciated. And all of them manage to connect well with lots of people and to sweep them off their feet.
When you wanna help others develop their conversation skills and you have this perspective on conversation, it’s a whole different game you’re playing. You can’t just give them rigid instructions and expect good results, as if you were teaching them how to tie their shoe laces and there is only one way to do it right.
What I do instead as a communication coach is to start by helping people realize that as clumsy or awkward as they may be right now in social situations, there is a good conversationalist somewhere inside them. And there are ways to bring it out. I help them believe in themselves. I talk more about how this psychological process works in this special presentation.
Next, I usually help them discover their natural strengths and get a good understanding of their personality type. And as they get to know themselves better, it becomes clearer to them what kind of a conversation style would match well the way they are.
So then they can work with me on developing a conversation style that creates amazing results with people, and at the same time is designed around their personality and their natural strengths. Every one of my clients develops their own unique social persona, which is ideal for them.
On the other hand, when you take the approach of giving someone formulaic conversation advice, what happens most often is that the advice is gonna be so far from the person’s strengths they will never fully internalize it, and it won’t work well for them. So their conversation style will perpetually seem clumsy and inconsistent. It’s kind of like having an eagle running a horse race, or a horse trying to fly.
Unfortunately, it’s common for coaches, trainers and bloggers to teach others a conversation style that works well for their own person, since it matches the way they are, but will fail someone else who different from them.
They’ll sort of try to create replicas of themselves, who go out there in the social world and act the same way they do; sometimes to the point of dressing the same way, making the same jokes and using the same lines. Ridiculous, if you ask me.
The Path to Sizzling Conversations
Are there conversation principles and techniques that work well for people all around? Yes, there sure are. And I teach such principles as well, in my courses as well as in my free newsletter. But these exist mostly to help you master the basics of good conversation. They just set a sturdy foundation.
When you move beyond that, to developing advanced conversation skills, it’s time to put general techniques aside and find your own unique voice. To find and implement ideas that work well for you in particular, to customize them and optimize them for your circumstances, and to mix them so they form your own distinctive conversation style.
When you do that you find that your social skills not only improve a lot faster, but your conversation style feels much more authentic to boot.
Because you’re not trying to change entirely who you are in social settings. You’re only smoothing out the rough edges, gaining some new social habits, removing your social insecurities, and building on top of the qualities you already posses as a person.
It can seem easier to just take some do-this-do-that conversation advice and apply it, but that will never be very effective in creating top-notch conversation skills. When it comes to truly mastering conversation, finding your own way is the only way as far as I’m concerned.
If you want more help in improving your conversation skills and developing the conversation style that works best for you, I recommend you join my free social confidence newsletter, where I share most of my insights concerning this area.
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