December 23rd, 2009

How to Be a Better Conversationalist

by Jacqueline Whitmore

By Jorie Scholnik, guest blogger

In school I spent countless hours learning how to read, write and speak, but I was never taught how to listen. Fast forward several years and I find myself in a counseling program where it is essential that I listen to my clients, understand their emotions and avoid giving unsolicited advice. It amazes me how much people just want someone to listen to them in conversation without being interrupted or judged. While you may have the best intentions, I recommend avoiding these conversation blunders.

Finishing a person’s sentence.
Let the person you are speaking with finish their story or thought. Don’t assume you automatically know what a person will say or how they will feel.

Not being an empathetic listener.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. In other words, try to relate to the feelings that the person is expressing while speaking to you. Recognize that their story, whether cheerful or sad, has its own meaning to that individual with different circumstances.

Interrupting or abruptly changing the topic. Doing this may cause the other person to question whether you really care about what he or she is telling you. Make sure you give the other person your undivided attention. This will make him feel like he is talking about a worthy topic.

Dismissing a person’s opinion. Have an open mind and note that the other person may come from a different culture, economic background and/or family of origin. Whether you agree or disagree, it is important to value the other person and recognize that he may have different views on situations.

Constantly “one-upping.”
Talking with someone is not a competition and their experiences shouldn’t be minimized. While you may relate to the topic of conversation, it is unattractive and rude to constantly steal a person’s spotlight.

I love the Penelope skits from Saturday Night Live, where she constantly one-ups the people she is around. For a good laugh, watch this video of Penelope at a wedding reception.

Jorie Scholnik has been interning seasonally at The Protocol School of Palm Beach, Inc. since June 2006. She is graduating from the University of Florida in May with a M.Ed./Ed.S. in Marriage and Family Counseling and Mental Health Counseling.

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