Let’s be real: Making conversation is nowhere near as easy as it looks on TV or social media. Your palms get sweaty, you stumble over your words and you often fail to come up with the perfect response. Truthfully, some social interactions end up being downright awkward.
You’re often told that communication skills are at the heart of every relationship, including those in business. But making conversation can be a bit uncomfortable, especially at first. What’s worse is that’s the part that really matters. When you think about it, small talk is the basis of just about every connection you make.
Luckily, a set of good conversation skills can help. With good conversational skills, you’ll be able to navigate those less-than-pleasant chats, which will open the door to more enlightening, enjoyable conversations. All it takes is a bit of practice, and you’ll better your communication skills and improve your confidence in networking and deal-making.
For everything you need to know about how to develop conversation skills, and how these skills can help you succeed in business, just keep reading.
What are Conversation Skills?
Conversation skills are the ability to organically begin, maintain and end a conversation. In other words, these skills include how you initiate a conversation with another person, how you carry yourself throughout the exchange, and how you politely wrap it up. Another aspect of good conversation skills includes engaging others. A good conversationalist invites others to chat, asks them to share their ideas and responds to their thoughts.
Good conversation skills are built on the foundation of two crucial elements:
- Verbal communication skills
- Nonverbal communication skills
Verbal Communication Skills
Verbal communication is likely something you do each and every day. You verbally communicate when you use spoken or written words to share information. You might think of verbal communication only as sharing with others, but you verbally communicate with yourself daily. Thoughts and self-talk can be verbal communication. Not to mention intentional self-communication, like journal entries, affirmations and even shopping lists.
Verbal communication skills include the ability to inform, persuade or entertain your listener or reader. Other essential aspects include negotiating, reasoning and listening. These skills make it possible to logically transmit the message in your head to the people around you. With good verbal communication, you can give key data to stakeholders or simply share a laugh with your coworkers.
Nonverbal Communication Skills
We’re sure you’ve heard the saying, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.” This phrase is a good indicator of nonverbal communication skills. Nonverbal communication skills involve the parts of your message that aren’t directly said. They consist of things like tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. These skills are all essential for listeners to clearly understand your message.
Of all the elements of nonverbal communication, body language can be the most complex, and it is often the most important. Your body language involves eye contact, body contact, personal space and even hand gestures. When overdone, too much body language can distract from your message. When done well, body language can entice others to want to listen to your message.
Like Dale Carnegie said in his classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Actions speak louder than words. A smile says, ‘I like you. I am glad to see you.’”
Why are Conversational Skills Important in Business?
Throughout life, you’re going to have a ton of different kinds of conversations. There will be casual chats to build rapport with new friends or colleagues. There will also be more serious conversations, like when buying a new car, selling a home or signing a contract. All are equally important.
But in business especially, conversations are often more formal, and they call for top-notch skills. Some of the most important skills to have in your tool belt are the ability to persuade, prove expertise and negotiate a deal. And all of these stem from strong conversation skills.
Without conversation skills, it’s impossible to communicate your purpose in life to investors, students or mentees. And with no communication skills to guide you, it’ll likely be hard to get buy-in from stakeholders, investors and clients. How will others understand you if you can’t communicate clearly?
For everyone in business (especially us underdogs!), it’s critical to make people really listen to what we have to say. Fortunately, solid conversation skills can help you do just that. With a firm understanding of how to facilitate conversations and properly negotiate a deal, you’ll become an unstoppable force.
How to Develop Business Conversation Skills in 8 Easy Steps
Wondering how to be a great conversationalist? You’ve come to the right place. We’re detailing exactly what it takes to boost your social skills and become a master communicator with 8 easy steps.
Now, you probably won’t be the world’s next renowned talk show host overnight. But by adding these steps into your daily routine, you can grow confidence in your skills. And soon, you’ll be chatting like the best in no time.
1. Improve Your General Body Language
If you’re working on your conversation skills, the first step is to make sure you’re easily approachable. Otherwise, how else will you strike up conversation with someone? To appear welcoming, work on improving your general body language.
Like Dean Graziosi says, “Check how you’re presenting yourself to the world. Check your physicality numerous times during the day, and try to smile, stand, talk and gesture in a manner that represents the best you.”
The best you is all-in—so be your best self by showing interest. Approach conversations with open body language, like a smile and uncrossed arms. Angle your body towards the person that you’re talking to show engagement. Limit nervous habits, like fidgeting or picking at your fingers. Above all, avoid keeping your eyes glued to devices like your phone! Stay in the moment to have a good conversation.
2. Learn to Maintain Eye Contact
Whether you realize it or not, your eyes are an excellent form of communication. They light up when you’re happy or excited, squint when you’re confused and glaze over once you lose interest. This is why eye contact is essential for good conversations.
Not only does eye contact display your emotions, but it also demonstrates to your conversation partner that you’re actually listening and paying attention. As you initiate conversations, make a conscious effort to maintain eye contact. If making eye contact intimidates you, start with small steps, like looking someone directly in the eyes while introducing yourself or saying hello.
3. Find Common Ground
We’ve all been there before: Struggling to carry a conversation with a business executive or client, but doing our best to keep up an enjoyable discussion. Really, the trick to a pleasant chat is quite simple. You just need to find common ground!
The only way to keep a conversation going for hours is if both people want it to continue. You can keep the other party engaged by talking about things you share, AKA common ground. Bear in mind, you don’t have to know a person well to discover items you have in common. On the contrary, you can find common ground with complete strangers just by observing them and your shared surroundings.
In business, it’s a bit easier to find common ground. Just ask yourself:
- What industry are you both in?
- What trends or breaking news can you discuss?
- Which mutual connections do you share?
If you’re concerned about finding common ground before a big interview or sales meeting, do your due diligence. Before you even step foot into the room, do a bit of research. Look up the person you’ll be speaking with to better understand their point of view. You don’t have to go full sleuth-mode—just review their basic LinkedIn profile and business website. This will give you ideas of things to talk about.
4. Embrace Making “Small Talk”
Small talk: An introvert’s worst nightmare. Small talk can be a real pain in the butt sometimes, but it’s also how you build rapport in a professional setting. In business, it pays to learn how to break the ice. Especially when you’re stuck in an elevator with colleagues or waiting for a meeting to start. Plus, it really isn’t as daunting as you may think.
Think of small talk as a warm-up conversation. Try using conversation starters, like talking about the weekend or shared surroundings. After all, talking about the weather is the oldest small talk trick in the book! You can also discuss your commute or what it’s like working remotely, or even compliment the other person’s outfit, briefcase or current projects.
These generic conversation topics won’t win you the Nobel Prize for communication skills, but they’re an easy segue into business ideas.
5. Strike a Balance Between Talking and Listening
All too often, both in life and in business, we only half-listen in conversations. We form a reply in our heads while the other person is still talking. Rather than waiting to fully hear and absorb the message, we tune out, waiting for a moment to interject. This is why an essential part of business and leadership is active listening.
Active listening is when you listen to understand instead of to respond. Listening only to respond jeopardizes your ability to hear the speaker’s full message. Without the entire message, you risk not having a good conversation. You might say something off-topic or at the wrong time, making it seem like you’re not really interested in what the other person is talking about. That will make them close off from the conversation and ruin your chance to understand each other.
Instead, strike a balance between talking and listening. Most importantly, always let the other person finish their thought before starting yours. Listening is key!
6. Learn to Confidently Negotiate
It’s a common myth that successful negotiation begins and ends with a strong argument. This explains why so many of us spend hours (or even days!) rehearsing our case in our heads. We’ll even pre-plan all of our responses and defenses! But if you truly want to confidently negotiate, reread the last sentence of the last section: Listening is key!
Believe it or not, Dean’s #1 secret to negotiation is listening! When Dean approaches a deal, he silently listens for the first thirty minutes of the meeting. Instead of arguing his point, he aims to understand where each party is coming from. Like he said in an episode of his podcast, The Dean Graziosi Show, “People will say yes to you when they feel understood, not when they understand you.”
The trick is to ask strategic questions about what the other party needs and wants from the deal. This way, they lay out a blueprint of what you need to know to seal the deal. It’s an ethical way to make everyone happy. Listening before pitching can also clue you in to assess the potential partnership. When you listen, you can figure out if the deal isn’t a good fit in the first place. This leads us to the next step of conversation skills: reading the room.
7. Practice Reading the Room (and Others’ Expressions)
Often in business, you need to read the room. This means using context clues and your gut feeling to judge the general moods of the people in the room. And then, you act accordingly.
For instance, nonverbal cues, such as closed body language and minimal eye contact, can hint when others are uncomfortable or unengaged in group conversations. When you notice others are disengaging, find a way to organically end the conversation.
If you’re in deep conversation, you may not notice if others in the group have lost interest. Train yourself to watch for changes in tone of voice and facial expressions. That will help you learn when to cut conversations short or move forward to close the deal.
8. Find Time to Engage Regularly
Whether it’s your coworkers, your students, your mentor or someone you just met five minutes ago, anyone can be a conversation partner. Use this to your advantage and communicate as much as possible! The more you practice, the more confident you’ll feel in your conversation skills. Make it a point to engage in some form of conversation regularly. Your conversation partner can be the mailman, a grocery store clerk or even your kids.
When it comes to conversation skills, practice makes perfect. Do your best to incorporate the above 8 steps into your daily routine.
How Will You Practice Conversation Skills?
Both in life and in business, solid conversation skills can pave the way to countless opportunities. With the above steps in mind, break out of your comfort zone and start improving your communication abilities today!
Which step to develop conversation skills did you find most helpful?
Text the step to Dean 480-400-9019 and tell him you came from the blog—your message will go straight to his personal cell!