Monthly Archives: December 2007

Conversation Starters Success Made Easy

We have all probably been in a situation where we do not know what to say. Once we have broken the ice and began speaking things usually get a lot easier, but whatever situation you are in, whether it be a conversation in a bus line with a complete stranger, talking with your siblings at a party, a first date with someone you are trying to impress or simply talking with an old friend you maybe haven’t seen in a while, you can often be stuck for conversation starters.

One problem with conversation starters is that too often, people feel that they need to be really witty and smart with how they open a conversation; that is not the case. In fact, if you try to be too smart, that can be off-putting to the person you are talking to so that they in turn do not know how to answer you.

If that is the case, that conversation is going nowhere and there will be an embarrassed silence until one or other of you finds somewhere to slink off to where there is not so much tension and pressure to talk.

It is a far better idea to find conversation starters which are easy to answer that people are likely to have an opinion which they will not mind sharing with you, so the questions should be light and not touch too deeply on people’s beliefs.

However, that does not mean that conversation starters have to be banal and boring. Far from it; depending on how well you know the people you are starting a conversation with, you can use some very interesting conversation starters and make quite an impression upon the person with whom you are having a conversation; you just need to be careful to listen properly to how they answer your question.

You will be able to pick up some other topic of conversation from there and that is what makes it a two-way conversation, not a lecture from you.

Here are some examples of useful conversation starters:

1. If you could live in any home on a TV series, where would you live?
2. What is your favorite Elvis Presley song?
3. What was your favorite TV series as a child?
4. What is the most recent trip you took?
5. What do you usually like to order when you go out to dinner? (If you keep this question for someone you know a little but would like to date, you could then follow it up by asking them casually to go out to dinner with you; at least you’ll know what type of restaurant to take them to.)
6. What is your favorite word?
7. What is your least favorite word?
8. What’s your favorite movie or musical?
9. Have you ever had dancing lessons?
10. What’s your favorite ‘knock knock’ joke?
11. If you could go to dinner with any celebrity, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
12. If you could have a super-power which would you choose to have?
13. Name (or preferably sing) five songs to which you know all the words.
14. What’s the best bargain you have ever got?
15. What is the longest you have ever queued to buy something and what was it?

All of these conversation starters are suitable for a range of different situations and you don’t need to know people very intimately to use them. People will not be embarrassed to answer these questions as they do not require them to give away too much information about themselves and there is nothing there by which they can be judged too harshly.

Also, they all should be questions for which they can easily think of an answer. They leave the way open for further chat to build upon what you find out. They can also choose to answer these questions seriously or with humor. Essentials of good conversation starters are that they are easy to answer but do not put the respondents under pressure to give too much away of themselves.

6 Verbal Communication Skills Everyone Needs To Have

Almost everyone can talk from a young age; it is quite a different matter altogether to be able to communicate well.  Especially if you are trying to communicate in a work setting or with people you do not know well.

You will really need to develop a few more advanced verbal communication skills in order to get your point across to people and to enable other people to also communicate with you so that you achieve whatever it is that you need to achieve.

Very often, subtle changes in the way you phrase things can greatly improve the effectiveness of your verbal communication. Below are some examples of these subtle aspects of speaking and listening.

1. Presupposition

People often doubt their capabilities and this can make them appear reticent and unwilling to progress because they fear doing something wrong. If you are a communicator with responsibility for other people, such as your staff, and your job is to get people to do certain things to the best of their abilities, you can make very good use of presupposition.

Most people are very willing to comply, so it can be very useful to turn your words around make them a statement rather than a request. For example, you should say “when you have improved your communication skills, you will notice how your confidence grows”.

The use of ‘when’ rather than the more doubting ‘if’ or any other phrasing implies that you believe that their communication skills will improve; this is a powerful way of sending a positive message and boosting the confidence of the recipient.

2. Avoid Double Binds

We have all tried to communicate with people who have a negative attitude; it is as if for every positive statement you make, they can counter it with negativity. That leaves your listener paralyzed, unable to act because they feel that they will fail, whatever they attempt to do.

You need to challenge these negative beliefs and replace them with more positive potential outcomes of which your listener has apparently not thought.

3. Tag on to the Yes Set

This is a useful little technique for communicating with a doubting audience. What you need to do is tag on a suggestion to something which is definitely true. For instance, you might say ‘as you read in this article, you can improve your verbal communication skills’; you have already read the article; that’s fact.

It therefore follows that you can improve your verbal communication skills.  If one statement is true then the other statement has also to be true, your brain will tell you.

4. Give the Illusion of Choice

Sometimes, there really is not a choice to be had, but simply issuing an order can annoy people; therefore, you should give the illusion of choice; this technique works really well with children. Asking ‘would you like to go to bed in five minutes or ten minutes?’ appears to offer a choice but the result is a child in bed in ten minutes maximum.

A similar effect is to dangle a carrot of a positive result in front of people to get them to do something; for instance, one might say, “when people listen attentively, they usually remember more’; this will give people much more incentive to listen well than simply commanding them to do so.

5. Analogies and Metaphors

People often have rather short attention spans; keep them listening carefully to you by making a story of what you say; make your words live for your audience so that they stick in their minds with plenty of images of metaphors to which they can relate.

6 Be Positive, Not Negative

Nobody really likes to be told not to do something; it also does not give constructive advice to forbid something. It’s a much more effective strategy to tell people what they need to do, so be positive when you communicate.

Following these few guidelines will help to ensure that your verbal communication skills are as effective as possible.

How To Master Basic Communication Skills

I have a problem with the term ‘basic communication skills’; my problem is that this term implies that these skills are very simple and that you are somehow lacking and weak if you don’t have them. Certain communication skills are certainly ‘basic’ to the extent that they are very necessary and that a lot of the success of communication has to be built upon these foundations.

But it is by no means true to say that everyone should somehow naturally possess these skills, which is a slur on those who find communication difficult. Communication skills can be earned.

In every situation and every occupation in adult life, it helps to have certain communication skills.

Verbal Communication:

1. You should be able to speak clearly and concisely to either report factual information or convey an opinion. This is quite a straightforward skill to practice and you can even start by practising on your friends; they will be glad to hear your opinions.

2. Practice speaking to groups as well as individuals; that is quite a different skill to ensure that everyone is included and that everyone gets your message.

3. When you are thinking of improving your verbal communication skills, is it your choice of language, your style of delivery or the way you speak which needs to be worked on?  You could ask the advice of a friend or trusted colleague on that as it is sometimes difficult to judge for yourself.

4. You might want to consider taking an acting class or a course on diction to help you to improve your communication skills; local colleges often offer a variety of these courses.  You may also find courses in specific areas of communications skills such as customer services, hospitality and conflict management.

Written Communication:

1. Written communication is a different skill to verbal communication; getting your ideas of paper is something that a lot of people find difficult, whether they are an aspiring novelist or someone who finds it difficult to write a concise, understandable e-mail.

2. Learning how to use grammar properly is often the key to clearer written communication. Most jobs and most purposes of writing will require you to have an adequate grasp of grammar. Grammar is definitely something in which you should easily be able to find a course offered at your local college. You could improve your grammar through a business writing course or one aimed at creative writing, whichever you would prefer.

Alternatively, you can find self-help books and workbooks to learn the skills of grammar at your own pace, in your own home. You can also find online writing courses to help you a lot in this area.

Listening:

1. The ability to listen well is the key to understanding communication; in order to do that, you need to fully focus your attention on the speaker to begin with.

2. You can develop your knowledge along with your listening skills by checking out audio tapes and video tapes, perhaps ones loaned from the local library, and practicing fully attending to what is being said on them. You will soon realize that we very often only listen with part of our attention in normal life, but once you have practiced your listening skills you will be able to discern much more from what is being said to you.

Practising these speaking and listening skills will enable you to much more effectively share your opinions with others and defend what you think against their opposing ideas.

Practise your writing and you can express what you want to whomever you wish. When you have practise communicating for a while you will be able to communicate clearly and concisely and be assertive without appearing rude.

A really fun way to become good at such a skill it to listen to radio phone-ins or chat show; you can do this easily, listening to the radio on your drive into work, for instance.  Listen out for how people articulate their views and how others receive the messages, depending on how they are expressed.

You will find it fun and quite easy to develop your basic communication skills once you begin to look for opportunities like this.