The 10 Golden Rules of Conversation

Life at Fifty Acres

Conversing, networking and building rapport is at the core of not only public relations, but of many other disciplines, and even of general life success. Being able to communicate freely, confidently and, at times, briefly, is a skill many people strive to obtain, yet few actually master.

Due to the prevalence of “within reach” technology, we’re losing our ability to converse face to face. When confronted with the infrequent reason to communicate with our fellow human, we resort to a typical comment about the weather or scramble towards any other topic to make small talk, struggling to hold meaningful conversation.

In the hope of reversing this trend, we’ve compiled a list of ten rules, which we believe are key to having better conversations.

  1. Listen. Most people forget that conversation isn’t only about speaking; it’s also about listening. The best communicators are attentive listeners who listen not to reply, but to understand.
  2. Don’t multitask – it’s all or nothing. We all know the feeling of trying to talk to someone, only to find that they’re too busy scrolling through their phones or staring at their screens to care. Your words are going in one ear, and out the other, so you think to yourself, “what’s the point of conversing at all?” You don’t want other people to feel like this if you’re on the receiving end of a conversation. Be present and in the moment. A conversation isn’t the time to think about what you’re going to have for dinner or what you still need to get done before the end of the day. If you want to get out of the conversation, then politely let the other person know.
  3. Converse to learn, not to preach. You’re not having a conversation if you’re just talking at someone. Rather than entering a conversation to state your opinion without any opportunity for response or argument, you need to assume that each and every conversation you enter will provide you with something to learn.
  4. Don’t liken your experiences with others’. We may have gone through similar things to our family members, colleagues or friends, but because we’re all different, we respond differently to experiences. All experiences are individual. Conversations aren’t always about you (see point 3).
  5. Don’t force it. Almost everyone is guilty of this speaking sin. You’re there “listening” to someone talk, and come up with a great idea or story in your head to bring up. Before you know it, you’re interrupting the person with your own story. Interjection is acceptable only if it reinforces a point made by the person talking, if it’s short and if it doesn’t derail the thought process of the speaker. But if it’s none of these three things, then try to hold back and go with the flow. Give the person some space to tell their story, and when they’re done, you can bring up what you want to share.
  6. Be honest. This one’s self-explanatory. There’s nothing worse than being caught out in a lie. As the old adage goes, honesty is always the best policy and it should always be that way for conversations.
  7. Use open-ended questions. These cause people to stop and collect their thoughts, giving you a much more interesting and detailed response.
  8. Avoid repetition. Too much repetition makes a conversation boring. It also makes the listener feel as though you don’t pay attention to what you’re saying and have forgotten that you’ve told them the same thing before.
  9. Keep it simple. People don’t usually care about the little details unless it benefits the listener.
  10. Be brief. This one speaks for itself. No one likes people who tie others up in conversational knots for hours. We don’t like being talked at, or made to feel as though we could be anyone, just being a silent ear.