How good are your rapport and conversation skills?

‘Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.’
Frank Tyger

Listening is one of the most valuable skills a person can develop. And all it requires from you is to be attentive and curious. Listening is the most important of all skills for successful conversation and rapport. Many people are poor listeners. Since everyone enjoys talking, it takes a real effort to practice the essentials of excellent listening and to make them a habit.

In order to be a good conversationalist, you must resist the urge to dominate the discussion. The very best conversationalists appear to be low key, easy-going, cheerful, and genuinely interested in other people. They seem to be quite comfortable to listen when other people are talking and they make their own contributions to the conversation quite short and to the point.

Here are eight suggestions to improve your communication skills:

1. Be open
Being open means setting aside everything you know (don’t pre-judge) about the person or the topic and listening with focused attention.

2. Be interested
Most people try to be interesting when in fact they should be interested. To be a good conversationalist, you must be curious about and fascinated by the way another person’s mind works. You must want to understand others, to know more about what they think and feel.

3. Give your full attention to the conversation
Don’t allow yourself to be distracted if someone enters the room or passes by. Don’t answer your cell phone. Don’t look at your watch. These are all signals to the other person that what they’re saying isn’t important to you.

4. Never interrupt
This is where most of us blow it. Resist the urge to respond immediately to something the other person says. Learn how to hold your thoughts until it’s your turn.

5. Ask open-ended questions
Ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Open-ended questions encourage the speaker to expand on their thoughts and comments. And one question will lead to another.

6. Ask unexpected questions
Don’t ask a question you think you know the answer to. Ask ‘Why?’ or ‘Why not?’ Use unexpected questions to find out what makes the other person tick. This may get you an unexpected response that could steer the conversation in a more interesting direction.

7. Share the opportunity to talk
Good conversation has an easy ebb and flow. Whether it is between two people or among several, the conversation should move back and forth, with each person getting an opportunity to talk. Conversation in this sense is like a ball that is tossed from person to person, with no one holding it for too long.

8. Listen with the intent to understand
If you listen with the intent to reply, you’ll spend your time thinking about what you’re going to say next, and you’ll miss what the other person is telling you. If you listen with the intent to understand, you will hear more – not only what they are actually saying, but also what they are implying.

Nothing affects the quality of your relationships more than your willingness to listen to others. Start listening better today and you could see big changes in your personal and business life – better friendships, more clients, more respect, and improved rapport with everyone you come in contact with.

The basic building block of good communications is the feeling that every human being is unique and of value.

‘It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.’ Oliver Wendell Holmes