Conversational skills

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Conversational skills are skills that help you take your conversation partner into consideration. These skills are discussed below.

Let the other person finish

Letting the other person finish talking will give you more insight. It also prevents you from speaking at the same time, which can make a conversation chaotic. You can miss information when you don’t let each other finish talking, which can lead to miscommunication. Disputes can also be prevented in this way.

Asking questions

Closed questions:

A closed question is a question to which you can give two or three answers. Consider, for example: “Do you work?”. You can answer “yes” or “no” to this. An advantage of a closed question is that you can control the conversation. A disadvantage is that someone often answers briefly and succinctly, therefore you could miss information.

Open questions:

An advantage of open questions is that they provide a lot of information. A disadvantage is that this information is less specific or relevant. Open questions usually start with the words: ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘why’ and ‘when’. For example, instead of: “Do you work?”, you can ask “Where do you work?”. By asking this question, you will not only find out if a person works, but also where that person works.

Listening to others

 Listening is often the difficult part of communication. Really listening and taking in what is being said happens too little. Try to focus on listening to what someone is saying. You can do this by repeating it to yourself at the end of the story. This helps to make you more aware of the information they have given you.

Adapt your style to other people

 This is important for making sure that your message is communicated well. For example, try not to use words that are too difficult with a child. It can be more convenient to ask children more closed questions.

Silences

Silences during a conversation can be an uncomfortable experience, but they are important as well. Silence gives you time to reflect on what has been said. Try not to fill in these silences, and deliberately introduce silences occasionally during a conversation.

How do I practise?

Practise in a familiar environment and pay attention to the techniques listed above. For example, ask yourself: “Do I look at the person when they talk?”. Or: “Do I really listen to what they are telling me?”. If you find it difficult to recognize these skills in yourself, you can ask your conversation partner for feedback. For example, ask: “How did you experience this conversation?”. Or: “Did you miss anything on my part?”. Feedback is often very informative because it helps you become aware of things you are good at and things you need to improve on. During your next conversation, you can pay attention to whether you are using these skills.

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