Chapter5-6 : Even someone who’s not good at talking can make conversations go smoothly just by noddi
I often hear complaints of this kind:
“My conversations don’t seem to go anywhere,” or “I try to say something, but then I get stuck for words and lose the thread of what I wanted to say.”
There are lots of people who are troubled by the fact that they can’t easily start conversations with others at the workplace or when having a drink somewhere, and are thus unable to form connections with others.
“I wish I could talk to people in a relaxed, easy way,” they think, and a fair number may decide to learn techniques for stimulating good conversation.
So, how can one become good at making conversation?
There’s an old saying: “Good talkers are good listeners.”
Good conversationalists are not fluent speakers or those with fine voices; they’re not skilled performers.
They are people who know how to listen skillfully to what others are saying.
For example, we all know people who are very talkative, who are never at a loss for things to say, and yet who make everyone else feel awkward and uncomfortable when they join in a conversation.
People like that may be good talkers, but since they don’t want to hear what others are trying to say, they monopolize and ruin the conversation.
On the other hand, there are people who are not very comfortable talking and yet are quite well liked.
Other people tend to seek them out for conversation or invite them to dinner.
These tend to be people who are good listeners.
People will say, “When I talk to him, he listens very intently,” or “Talking with her makes me feel peaceful and calm.”
Such people are good listeners even if they are not good at talking from their side.
So then, how can we become good listeners?
There are various techniques, but the simplest way is to nod from time to time as one listens to the other person.
Nodding is a simple movement of the head up and down, but doing it or not makes a big difference.
This has been proved in psychological experiments.
A psychologist named Matarazzo tested the effects of nodding in conversation in the following way.
He observed how the frequency of a person’s utterances during a job interview increased or decreased depending on whether the interviewer nodded frequently or infrequently as he listened to the interviewee speak.
Each interview lasted for forty-five minutes, and for the first fifteen minutes the interviewer reacted in a less active, ordinary way.
For the next fifteen minutes, he nodded frequently and clearly; and for the last fifteen minutes, he went back to a less active, more ordinary way of reacting.
When he tabulated the results, he found that the number of utterances by the interviewee increased by fifty percent when the interviewer nodded frequently during a given fifteen-minute segment, as compared with one in which he did not nod much.
That means that the interviewee spoke twice as much when he was nodded at during the first and last segments, as compared with the middle segment.
The conversation was twice as lively as a result.
Why was there such a difference?
Because the speaker was looking for some reaction from the listener to what he was saying.
Nodding tells the speaker, “I am listening carefully to what you are saying.”
When the listener nods, the speaker feels relaxed, knowing that he is being heard, and the conversation goes well.
On the other hand, if the listener shows no such reaction, the speaker will think “He’s not interested,” or “Maybe he doesn’t like me.”
This kind of anxiety will make him end the conversation as soon as he can.
People who are good listeners are also good at nodding.
It’s not a matter of just moving your head in a mechanical fashion: If you realize that a particular point is important to the speaker, you nod emphatically; if the speaker is recalling something that was painful to him or her, you nod with a sympathetic look.
If you sense that a nod will not be enough, you should make a short comment like “Is that what happened, then?” or “That must have been hard on you.”
Just doing these things will help the conversation move along naturally.
You don’t have to force yourself to come up with various topics.
When a conversation seems stuck, it is usually not because of the topic but because the parties don’t know how to respond properly to each other’s remarks.
Even if you don’t much enjoy talking, if you work at listening carefully to what the other person says, anyone can become a skilled conversationalist.