Sunday, October 23, 2005

What makes a good conversationalist?

I asked this question on the ST1100 e-mail list, and I got a great answer back:

InterestED vs. interestING has a lot of truth to it, but I don't believe it should be taken as an absolute. To me, a good conversationalist is a person who draws out my opinion, and makes me believe they care. Not just by nodding and agreeing, but by offering input on certain points, asking for clarification and forcing me to more clearly define my beliefs, or by interjecting alternate notions, theories, etc., without commandeering the conversation. Not just a passive listener, but a contributor, catalyst and inspiration to further discussion.

A good conversationalist will have the strength, skill and discipline to not let someone trap them in a monologue for half an hour without a break. They will do it in such a way that the motormouth does not take offense.

A good conversationalist is able to segue smoothly from one topic to another without the other party feeling that they have been cut off from their story. This, in my mind, is especially important in the case of returning to a boring conversation after an interruption. The good conversationalist will take them back to where they were, and then gently guide them to a more interesting place.

A good conversationalist will try to involve, or at least acknowledge all participants within a small group or cluster.

Most importanly, they will laugh heartily at my jokes. And they will make me believe that they meant it.

Hmmm. Seems that I have just described what I would like to be, rather than what I am. Going to have to work on that.


Paul Forkheim
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
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