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Friday, October 24, 2014

EwR Speaking - Master Conversation Skills in English (Step 2 of 4)

English with Raymond's
Second of Four Steps
to Master Conversation Skills in English

Many students, who are learning English as a second language, feel that their greatest deficiency in using the language is with conversation skills.  Here is the second of four fundamental characteristics of good conversation skills that can help you be a better listener, as well as a better speaker, during a conversation with someone else.


Use honest signals of communication and find similarity in what someone else says to you.

When you have a conversation with someone else, you are using two different channels of communication. The first one is obviously that of verbal language, but you also use non-verbal communication in the form of facial expressions and body gestures which act like unconscious signals. This second channel of communication is in the form of social signals which balance with our conscious verbal language usage. For example, sometimes you can detect when someone is trying to deceive you by paying attention to his/her social behavior; as indicated by specific facial expressions, body gestures, or other unconscious signals. Words alone are not always sufficient to determine if someone is really lieing to you, or not. These social signals don’t revolve around words alone, but rather around social interactions and behavior as detected by facial and body language. You can learn to read the meaning of what someone says by paying attention to his/her two different channels of communication. This will help you to become a better communicator during a conversation with someone else.

A successful communicator is one who uses honest signals of communication during a conversation. For example, you can choose to use positive unconscious social signals in order to show your geninune interest in what the other person is saying. A smile or a slight nod of the head demonstrates that you are honestly interested in what your listener is saying. This unconscious channel of communication is as powerful as if you were to say the following words out loud, “I’m interested in what you are saying”. Other positive and honest unconscious signals include paying attention (e.g., maintain good eye contact with the speaker); showing a strong desire to share (e.g., half-open your mouth with the idea of wanting to say something before the speaker finishes); selecting a way to change the subject (e.g., raise your eyebrows to demonstrate that you have something new to say); and finding a way to end the conversation without being disrespectful (e.g., tilt your head and smile when you explain that you have to end the conversation).

Most people would agree that they are more comfortable talking with others who are similar to them to some extent. There is a wide-range of research that demonstrates that people like others who are similar to themselves. This evidence can be carried one step further in order to address the effect that it has on your conversation with someone else who is somewhat similar to you. Social relations improve by emphasizing similarity, thus making conversation more positive and succesful. Therefore, if you want to have a conversation with someone else in order to achieve some positive results, find similarities in what the other person is “saying” and “doing”. 

Listen to what your listening partner “says”. In other words, listen to the speaker’s word usage, intonation, pauses, voice inflections, phrasing and other audible clues in order to find similar ways to communicate back with your listening partner. Subconsciously, people find you more friendly, interesting, honest and believable when you imitate their own conduct during a conversation. These clues will help make your conversation more successful and honest by showing that you are genuinely interested. For example, this is a proven advantage for business communicators like salespeople. Similarity is the key to being agreeable and more influential.

Pay attention to what your listening partner “does”. Remember that social behavior during a conversation is indicated by specific facial expressions, body gestures, or other unconscious social signals. Pay attention to these non-verbal forms of communication in order to approximate your listener, and demonstrate that you both have something in common by using social signals similar to those of your listening partner. If the speaker smiles at you while explaining something, you are not going to frown at him/her if you want to demonstrate that you are interested in the conversation. Instead, you will imitate the same behavior and smile back at him/her. Remember, similarity is the key to an honest and successful conversation.

Written by Raymond Bevilacqua, ENGLISH with RAYMOND©, October 2014

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