10 of the Best Ways to Improve Your Conversations
In my dreams, I’m witty and engaging. The kind of person you’d want to sit and talk with for hours. And of course, I’m an excellent listener who is emotionally supportive offering just the right balance of encouragement with sage advice.
But remember, I said, “in my dreams.”
In reality, let’s just say . . . I fall short.
Conversations. Love them or hate them they’re an essential part of life.
We love fun conversations with our best friends and hate ones where we have to confront someone or defend ourselves.
All day long, you and I are leaving little pieces of ourselves behind through the verbal exchanges we have with family, friends, coworkers, and yes, even strangers.
You and I want people to smile when they think of us about but I wonder how often we’ve messed up a conversation without even realizing it.
You’ve heard the saying, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” ~Carl W. Buehner
With that in mind, I’m working on…
10 of the Best Ways to Improve Your Conversations
1. Ask Questions
Ask open-ended non-prying questions. Things like:
- Where did you meet your best friend or your spouse?
- Where did you grow up?
- What’s your favorite way to spend your time?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
- What’s the best book you read last year?
“Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer.”
2. Take a Genuine Interest in the Answers
Listen to their story. Value their beliefs and opinions. You might learn something.
“When you really listen to another person from their point of view and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen.” ~ Stephen Covey
3. Let Them Finish a Thought – Don’t Interrupt
I’m guilty of this too often. When I’m engaged in a good conversation I get excited and in my enthusiasm, I speak too quickly. I’m working on this one…
“Recent research has indicated that the average individual listens for only seventeen seconds before interrupting and interjecting his own ideas.” ~Gary Chapman
It looks like I have lots of company when it comes to interrupting. Maybe many of us need to work listening to learn not to reply.
4. Share Your Story – Be a Little Vulnerable
You don’t have to tell every little detail but talk about your experiences. Something special happens when we open up and realize we may be more alike than we realized.
“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” ~C.S.Lewis
5. Relax – Be Yourself
God created you for this time and place. He created you for your relationships . . . just the way you are. There is something in you that is important to and for each of the people in your life. Be your best but be yourself. Relax and have fun.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10
6. Be Aware of Your Body Language
Make eye contact. Avoid foot tapping. Keep your arms open and your posture positive. Don’t roll your eyes, and don’t make negative or exaggerated facial expressions or gestures.
Crossed arms and eye rolls don’t work. Negative body language communicates immaturity and a closed-off attitude. It’s annoying in children and downright obnoxious in adults.
“Where body language conflicts with the words that are being said, the body language will usually be the more ‘truthful’ in the sense of revealing true feelings.” ~Glen Wilson
7. Listen to Yourself
Be aware of the tone of your voice. Agree enthusiastically and disagree calmly and quietly. Avoid sarcasm and exaggeration. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Everything you do or say should be done to obey Jesus your Lord. And in all you do, give thanks to God the Father through Jesus. Colossians 3:17
8. Use Your Head to Avoid Embarrassment
Think before you speak. Think about how your words might be received not just about what you want to say.
[Tweet “”The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet.” ~Ann Landers”]
9. Control Your Emotions
Although it’s true, you can’t control your feelings, it is equally true that you can control how you act on those feelings if you choose to. Stay open and sensitive to others’ feelings, but not too easily hurt yourself. Strive to be unoffensive and un-offendable.
A person with good sense is patient, and it is to his credit that he overlooks an offense. Proverbs 19:11
“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” ~ Dorothy Nevill
10. Apologize When Necessary
I make conversation mistakes often. I don’t listen the way I want to, I’m easily distracted, and I speak way too quickly.
And I’ve learned to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”
“An apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.” ~Margaret Lee Runbeck
“Real apologies start in the heart, express themselves through words, and culminate in actions.” ~Anonymous
Bonus – Always Choose Love
Be slow to judge or criticize. We’re all sinners who have said and done things we shouldn’t. You and I are more likely to point people to the truth of God’s love with a kind example and a caring heart than we are through harsh correction and criticism.
When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. Ephesians 4:29
Don’t you just love the way God makes it possible for us to connect with each other through conversation?
I especially love that now through screen and keyboard we can converse with people all around the world. That means, beyond face to face conversations, our online chats and posted comments are key to communicating and getting to know one another.
So, I want to leave you with a question…
Are you as careful with your on-line conversations as you are when sitting with someone across the table? If you and I have labeled ourselves followers of Jesus, what we say in person or on-line influences what others think of Him.
You and I can’t control the craziness that’s out there but we can control how we participate.
Do not do wrong to repay a wrong, and do not insult to repay an insult. But repay with a blessing, because you yourselves were called to do this so that you might receive a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9
And that blessing might just be a new or restored friendship.
I’ve always liked this easy to remember quote. It’s overused but let’s face it, it’s helpful. So ask yourself…
Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
And I like to add – Is it helpful?
I can do better.
Maybe you can too.
It’s not too late. Let’s improve our conversations and bless our relationships.
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I know I can do better in this area. You’ve given some great advice here, Deb. Thank you so much!
Thank you, Dawn!
Number three can be so hard for me, but it’s something I’m working on, especially with my hubby!! Thanks for these great reminders! <3
#3 is my greatest challenge too, Lauren. I can get so excited and engaged I just start talking. Working to do much better at that!
I’m reading a great book right now, Deb, called The Listening Life by Adam McHugh. It is a virtual treasure chest of how truly listening to others reflects how God and Jesus listen to us. You’d love it!
And I do try to say things online that I would say to someone face to face. I think the relative anonymity of the internet has caused people to lose empathy for others, and that is such a shame.
That book sounds great, Martha. I have to check it out! I agree with your point of not saying anything online that I wouldn’t say face to face. I also remind myself that once something is in writing and out there… it’s out there forever.
Those are great tips, Deb! I have recently had some opportunities to meet with new friends to talk, listen, share, and comfort. Before I entered the meetings, I made sure to pray for our conversation. Like so many, I tend to talk more than listen, and I especially wanted to have that be the other way around in these recent conversations! It is something I am working on as I intentionally reach out to others. So far, so good…but I know I’ll most likely slip sometime and chatter away! LOL But, your tips will really help ! Lord, help me to be a good listener who makes the speaker feel valued! Blessings, Joan
Prayer is always the best place to start, Joan. I have to ask God to calm me down so I really listen and engage not just babble forth. Thanks for reminding us that prayer is always #1.
I love, love, love asking questions. It is so helpful to be prepared to ask thoughtful questions and follow up questions. You can learn so much about people this way and also make them feel so loved.
Rev and I love to ask couples how and where they met. You can get a whole evening of conversation out of that one. Asking fun questions is the best!
Thanks for this very helpful, practical list! I have to catch myself sometimes, as I tend to be an interrupter – not good! I also need to listen to myself and make sure I’m sending the message I intend to send with my words and tone.
Listening is huge on both sides of a conversation, isn’t it? I also like to clarify what I heard the other person say before I head off in a completely unnecessary direction. Thanks for stopping by and adding that great point, Tracey!
An all-encompassing list, but concise. I will definitely use this as a resource for my counseling clients. Thanks Deb!
Oh, thank you so much, Meg! I’m glad you find it useful! Blessings to you!
Excellent list, especially the bonus! Interrupting is so easy to all into, especially when a random thought runs through my mind. Good reminders.