Anatomy of a Great Conversation

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Anatomy of a Great Conversation

Home / NETWORKING / Anatomy of a Great Conversation
The hard and fast rules of a great conversation.
A great communicator will spend most of their time listening...Because people want to be heard.
-Ita Olsen

A great conversationalist knows 2 things. The first, is that speech is music. And second, speech is power.

Just like a good song, a good speech has a rhythm. Give yourself a few beats before you respond. And the slower you speak, the better your usage of intonation, the more you resonate, and the more powerful you are.

The Foundations of a Great Conversation 

You MUST be completely relaxed.  Social events usually cause quite a bit of tension in our bodies, from the excitement, the anticipation and the anxiety over the fear of feeling and looking foolish.  We all have it.  Please note that most every one at the event is feeling similarly to you, and most people are too concerned about themselves to be overly observant about what you are doing.  So chances are you won’t look foolish no matter what you do.  Do your OSLIC relaxation exercises until you can rid your body of tension at any given moment.

Speak Slowly.  Once you are completely relaxed, there will be times during conversations when you want to share your opinion, make a witty observation, or relay a brief anecdote.  Leave lengthy pauses between breath groups.  Connect your breath groups (linking, don’t drop the ball) but utter them slowly.  The same story told twice, once slowly, once quickly will have two different impacts on the audience.  The one told quickly will be confusing and boring.  The one told slowly will leave your audience hanging on the edge of their seat waiting for your next utterance.

Use a great deal of effective intonation.  Lengthen and increase volume of the vowels you need to emphasize and significantly reduce length and volume of all other vowels.  There should be approximately a 1 to 7 ratio of big to small.

Use back resonance.  Always use a full resonance just above the back of the tongue.  You can maintain that resonance by pairing it with linking.  Each breath group is beautifully maintained by “hovering” that “ball of energy” over the back of your tongue.

A Great Conversation Has Rules

An effective communicator/conversationalist will spend most of his or her time listening. People want to be heard.  They want to spend time with people who understand them.  Really listen to people when they speak.  Try to understand them.  React during appropriate times by letting them know that you hear them.  “I understand what you mean.”  “I know the feeling.”  Or use the ever-popular, “I gotcha.”  It makes people feel good to know that they are understood.  Try not to fall into the trap of preparing what you are going to say next while others are speaking.  You will have the opportunity to speak and when you do you will have a firm grasp on your communicative partners’ feelings, preferences, wit, etc and you will be well-equipped to speak.

Be brief. Keep your stories/anecdotes short and sweet.  Concise and to the point.  Good story-tellers practice their tales.  They do so during their free time in their minds or aloud in front of the mirror.  They do so during real-time situations.

Ask questions. If you are speaking with someone whom you find interesting, ask for more detail when there is more you’d like to learn about their topics.  Always keep your questions open-ended not yes/no.  How do you feel about…?  What do you think about?  Not “Do you like…?”

Segue into something more profound. Basic conversations regarding weather and everyday activities can end at a brick wall. You can prevent that by considering your emotions as a result of a topic.  The best communicators understand that humans have feelings that are similar to their own.  Understand how you feel about something and you will have insight as to how others might feel.  Remember that opinions are different from emotions.

about the author

Ita Olsen
Ita Olsen
Ita Olsen has been featured on Good Morning America and the Today Show. "You can be crystal clear, concise, authoritative & highly influential," says Ita. "I take you there in the most efficient fashion. And I make your new skills a habit." Contact Ita for a complimentary consultation at ita@olsenspeech.com, or send her a tweet @ConveyClearly.