Conversation works best when everyone is participating, listening, talking, having disagreements, asking questions, making discoveries, cutting jokes… And being silent when appropriate. This combination of things makes conversations the great learning tool they are.
It would seem that conversations would come naturally to social creatures such as ourselves. But apparently not. Many conversations are one sided monologues. Many more degenerate into observations about the weather or traffic and never take off from there. Or they are long silences with all the people having frantic internal conversations inside their heads, but not saying anything aloud to each other!
People agonize about not being “good at conversations”. They look for solutions in speaking skills courses, vocabulary building exercises, learning body language cues, or even mugging up starter lines and jokes. All of them good ideas … but only when you have some other basics in place:
- Ask questions
- Clarify what you heard or understood
- Think what might interest the other person
- Disagree if you must…