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How to be a brilliant conversationalist

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How to be a brilliant conversationalist

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You probably shy away from some people on social occasions. Their conversations are tedious. You groan inwardly when they approach for you know that they are unremittingly dull company. Equally you may be fortunate enough to know some brilliant conversationalists who can enliven any discussion and who are excellent company whatever the circumstances. In what category would other people place you? How can you improve your conversational skills to become a welcome sight at every party and social event you attend? Here are some pointers that might help.

Ask Questions

Most people prefer to talk about themselves rather than hear about you, so asking questions is a great way to start and to refresh conversations. If you meet someone for the first time, start by asking simple, non-threatening questions about them, what they do, where they live etc. If you know someone moderately well then you should be aware of some of their interests so simple questions about those are good ways to start. As you get to know people better you can ask more searching and interesting questions. For example, ‘What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced in your life?’ or, ‘What is your greatest ambition?’

In a group similar considerations apply. You should generally start new conversations by throwing out questions rather than making statements or talking about things you have done. By asking questions you draw other people in and engage them. It is said that small minds talk about people, moderate minds talk about events and great minds talk about ideas. By all means start the conversation with some small talk but once it is going be prepared to introduce some questions relating to issues and ideas. We will discuss where to get the ideas shortly. Obviously you have to judge the nature of the group first so it is important to follow the second rule.

Listen

Great conversationalists are great listeners. Whether you are with one person or a group listen attentively. People like good listeners – wouldn’t you rather speak with someone who was interested in what you had to say rather than someone who looked bored and indifferent? Also, when you listen you learn. When you are speaking you are not learning anything new. Make a conscious effort to focus on what people say. Show that you are interested by asking questions that support and develop the conversation; ‘What do you mean exactly?’, ‘What happened next?’, ‘How did you feel about that?’

As you listen in a group, observe how people are reacting to the conversation. Are they engaged or ready for a change of topic? Is it time to move up from small talk to something more serious or time to lighten the mood with some humour? By listening and observing you can time your contribution to bolster the current conversation or move it forward to something new and interesting.

Give Compliments

Pay compliments whenever you sincerely can. If someone looks smart or has lost weight or has a stylish new haircut then show that you have noticed by giving a genuine compliment. ‘That colour really suits you.’ ‘You are looking very trim today.’ If they tell you about some achievement – say at work or by one of their children then congratulate them. As a matter of general courtesy and good manners you should always thank and compliment your host. Tell them what a great success the event is and how much you are enjoying it. Pick on some detail that they have chosen for the occasion that you like and tell them how well it has worked or how much you like it.

Keep up to date on topical issues

It is important to keep abreast of key current issues and topics in the news, entertainment, sports and politics. You should be ready to comment with questions, ideas, facts and opinions on the issues that other people are interested in. So see a few of the latest movies, read some of the most popular fiction and non-fiction, read the newspapers, watch the news, keep up with some major sports stories and watch some TV – but not too much. You do not need to slavishly follow every soap but if someone asks you what are your favourite TV programmes then you should be able to list some popular and serious programmes and justify what it is you like about them.

When discussing serious topics be prepared to oppose the conventional view and to take a rather provocative stance – even just for the sake of doing so. This will lead to a more interesting conversation than if you just agree with what is said. For example if everyone is against some political leader, then come to their defence with examples of strengths or achievements. Make your points with conviction, evidence and, if possible, humour. But in a social environment be careful not to become belligerent or cantankerous. In general it is best to avoid really sensitive or controversial topics especially if they risk offending people’s personal feelings.

Be Humorous

There is a place for serious discussion and there is a place for the light-hearted, so be ready to contribute in either environment. Witty comments tend to be spontaneous, clever and unexpected so being witty is not an easy skill to develop but there are some things you can do. Observe witty people in action and see how they contribute. Be bold enough to add your comments and witticisms and carefully watch reactions to see whether you are hitting the right note. Have a stock of funny stories. Do not force them into the conversation but have them ready when you get the cue or when there is a lull. Personal anecdotes relating to unusual experiences and misfortunes that befell you often go down well. Develop and practice some self-deprecating stories. Jokes, quotes and other people’s witty remarks can also be used sparingly and with acknowledgement. But beware of smutty or offensive stories in mixed company. Laugh at other people’s funny stories, even if you have heard them before, but never give away someone else’s punch line.

Speak Clearly

Say what you have to say with clarity and enthusiasm. Many people mumble their words, or rush through them or whisper so quietly that you have to strain to hear them. Good conversationalists are clear, articulate and easy to understand. They use interesting metaphors and visual images. Keep your sentences short and to the point. Don’t hog the floor. When you have made your point pass the conversation on by letting others speak. If there is a pause then draw someone in with a question.

Enjoy it

Be yourself, be natural and don’t try to be anything that you are not. Approach the situation with a positive attitude and tell yourself that you are going to have a good time and meet some interesting people. Relax, smile and enjoy the occasion. People prefer to mix with the happy and good-natured rather than the grumpy and miserable. By all means have a couple of drinks but not too many or you risk undoing all your good work!

How to be a brilliant conversationalist

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

How to be a brilliant conversationalist

No matter how meticulously you plan your words, you can never control how your message is received. However, several things are within your control, like timeliness, intensity and volume. Knowing what’s within your power and preparing in advance will help you to maximize each opportunity to communicate. Here are five keys to making your message count:

1. Never wing it.

Every conversation I’ve left with regrets shares a common denominator — I didn’t think before I spoke. Most of us are at our best when we have ample time to process our thoughts before sharing them. If a conversation or meeting is worth your time to schedule, it’s worth taking a few minutes to develop an outline beforehand. For a particularly important dialogue, consider role-playing the conversation with a trusted colleague to remove the rough edges.

2. Think about it from the receiver’s perspective.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes when shaping your strategy. This ensures a balanced approach and will prepare you to not only support your position, but also to challenge any potential rebuttals.

3. Be prepared for different responses.

No one can predict with 100 percent certainty how everyone will respond. Increase your chances that a conversation goes well by anticipating negative or questioning replies. This lessens the likelihood that you’ll be caught off guard.

4. Approach with reason and logic.

A point that is introduced with logic and confidence is less likely to be met with hostility. The key is to approach each conversation with objective-minded reasoning supported by data or fact, if possible.

5. Don’t forget the emotional side.

While point number four stresses the need for objective conversation, it’s important to remember that emotions often trump logic. Don’t underestimate the influence emotions can play in the perception of a message — and understand which ones your words may evoke.

Finally, strive to be not simply an effective communicator, but a brilliant one. Your point comes across clearer in a well-articulated conversation. While it may not be perfect — at least right away — aiming for brilliance is the best way to get there.

How to be a brilliant conversationalist

Whether you love standing around and chatting or cringe at the thought of yet another “forced” conversation, being a good conversationalist is important for both networking and forming office relationships. So, let’s talk—specifically, about how you can improve your conversational skills. These 10 links will help.

Break the awkward silence with one of these five questions. (Fast Company)

Learn how to avoid being dominated in conversation. (Wall Street Journal)

Discover how to develop a small talk style that’s 100% you. (Psychology Today)

Using science can improve your speaking skills with the neurochemistry of positive conversations. (Harvard Business Review)

For the shy folk, take a look at the seven ways to speak up at work. (Fortune)

It turns out, to thrive at work you need conversation. (Forbes)

These three simple steps will make you a better conversationalist. (Inc.)

Remember, good conversation is just as much listening as talking—so find out if you talk too much. (Wall Street Journal)

Want to improve your communication skills even more? Check out our suggestions!

How to be a brilliant conversationalistMany years ago on a visit to Ireland, I kissed the fabled Blarney Stone, rumored to give you the gift of gab for the rest of your life. (And I truly earned that gift of gab – to kiss it , you are lowered upside down by your ankles from the top of the castle tower, nearly 100 feet in the air . )

Luckily for you, there are other ways to master the art of conversation that don’t involve hanging by your ankles. They involve specific skills that anyone can learn , which are particularly profitable for entrepreneurs – you can use them everywhere from networking to negotiation , not to mention building real and lasting relationships with others . Here are five simple, practical techniques that will help you schmooze with the best of them:

1. Mi n imal encourages . This is a term from my “day job” of psychotherapy . It describes what we say as we are listening to someone – for example, small interjections such as, “I see,” or “Tell me more about that.” They let other people know you are locked in on what they are saying while they have the floor.

The first rule of great conversation is to *rock* your minimal encourages. Practice using ones that fit your personality, but shine with enthusiasm and interest: “Wow!” “Fascinating!” “That must have be en incredible . ” “Absolutely!” Choose the right words, and then practice delivering them with as much energy as possible. This one step alone wi ll make you stand out as an engaging person to talk to.

2. Good a cknowledge ment s . If someone told you that they had won the lottery – or experienced something horrible – many of us frankly would n’t know how to respond. Knowing the mechanics of acknowledgment is the single biggest way to make other people feel heard and felt. The details of this could fill an entire book (and have ), but here is a quick summary: paraphrase what they sa y, observe what they are feeling, validate that other people feel the same way, or identify personally with them .

3. Good questions . Our genial host Carol Roth put it best – most of us are tuned in to the radio st ation WII-FM (What’s In It For Me). Have three to five good questions in your back pocket, ready to ask people about themselves – or simply follow the lead of their conversation.

4 . The 3-to-1 rule . Of course, you can’t just minimally encourage , a cknowledge and question people all day – it would quickly become a one-way conversation that feels more like an interrogation than a dialogue. P lan to say at least one thing about yourself for every three exchanges with the other person. Of course, if you are more gregarious, there is no problem making this the 2-to-1 rule or even the 1-to-1 rule. (Just don’t dominate the conversation and make it the 1-to-3 rule.)

5. Linking . When it is your turn to talk, the very best thing you can do is link what they just said to whatever you are about to say. It’s easy: take their story, find something you have in common with it, and make that the start of your story. (“That’s fascinating how you handled setting boundaries with your employee . I always look up to people who have good negotiating skills. I had a similar situation with one of my most challenging customers …”)

T he se skills all combine with the one thing you can’t learn or fake – your natural sincerity – to make a real change in the way you connect with people. And the good news is that these skills all get better with practice.

Whether you are naturally shy or outgoing, you will be surprised at the difference a few conversational mechanics can make with p eople, in your business and in your life. And that’s no Blarney.

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A research says that an average human speaks about 86,03,41,500 words in a lifetime. 86 Crore words? That’s a whole lot of talking! But what about our conversational skills? But are those words actually helping you making new and meaningful bonds with the people around?

How to be a brilliant conversationalist

Conversational skills is a must have in today’s world. So let’s find out how to make every conversation a good one.

1. Say Something

Many believe that small talk comes naturally to everyone. That is a lie. Being a good conversationalist requires practice. Instead of waiting to be approached by someone, go up to them and try to strike up a conversation.

You could start off by making a general remark about the weather or the surrounding, or the reason why both of you are present there. For example. “Wow, The weather is getting really cold” or “Are you coming here for the first time too?”

2. Time for introduction

After you have initiated the conversation, introduce yourself. Let the other person do the same.

3. Ask away

Keep the conversation flowing by asking them simple and open-ended questions about them like where they study/work, how long they have been living in the city etc.The kind of questions you ask will steer the direction of the conversation.

Avoid asking them a string of yes-no questions as it is an absolute conversation killer. Start your questions with who, what, when, where, why or how. For example, instead of asking “Do you like this city?” you could ask “How do you find this city?”

4. Stay on the positive

Stay on positive topics. Avoid discussing how you got late in the morning or about the other person’s past grievances. Talk about something light hearted such as future goals and aspirations. It’s okay to talk about negative topics when you feel that it is okay with the other person, or you are getting to know them better.

5. Listen

Now that you have asked questions, it is time to listen. Nothing will kill a conversation faster than an inattentive listener. Go with the mindset that you would be listening with the intention to listen, not to respond.

At some point, you may feel that the person is a bore. Control your impulse to look away, check your phone or waving at other people that you know. Good conversationalists know that there is an opportunity to learn something new from every conversation.

Be attentive and maintain eye contact. Ask them questions for clarification when you don’t understand something. This would show that you have a genuine interest in what the other person is saying.

6. Be up to date

You should know about the current issues and topics in the news, entertainment, sports, and politics in order to present your ideas, facts, and opinions on the issues when called for. Watch a few latest movies and TV shows, check the news, keep up with the latest sports stories and political developments.

7. Don’t debate, converse

Different people have different perspectives. You will not always agree with the other person. In such situations, remember that you don’t always have to be right. Knowing the other person’s views would only help you know something new. Picking on their comments or arguing are not what good conversationalists do. Allow for things to be left open if a common point can’t be achieved.

How to be a brilliant conversationalist

Respect each other’s point of view. It’s fine to express your opinion, but don’t force it on them. Remember that they have the right to be themselves just as you have the right to be yourself.

8. Give sincere compliments

Despite what people say or think, the way that we are perceived by others can have a profound effect on our self-esteem. Look for the good things in other people. If you notice a person with a new haircut or that he/she is very articulate, give them credit for it.

9. Maintain the ratio

“What differentiates us from animals is the fact that we can listen to other people’s dreams, fears, joys, sorrows, desires, and defeats—and they, in turn, can listen to ours.” – Henning Mankell

A conversation with 50-50 ratio is ideal, while 60-40 is good too.If you notice that you have talked for a few minutes without any questions, comments, or general signs of life from the other person, it’s time for you to take a break.

At the same time, don’t let the other person go on and on. If it happens, ask them questions such as:

What ultimately happened?

Given what you’ve said, what conclusion are you drawing?

10. Don’t make it The End

When it is time for the chat to end, don’t just state the reason and leave. Let the other person know that you have to leave. Show appreciation for the conversation by saying “It was lovely meeting you” or “I had a great time, today.”

Moreover, you can summarise some of the major points of your talk and set up the stage for future conversations. For example “Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll let you know my views on it as soon as I finish it”

11. Be you
Be yourself, be real. If you want to oppose the conventional view, then do so. You’re having a conversation not to impress anyone, but to have a good time.

Because Zoom may bring the best and worst in us

How to be a brilliant conversationalist

My husband and I have joined some interactive church services through Zoom in the last 7 weeks. They bring together over 20 accounts each week.

Last Sunday, after the service ended, one church member started talking about her life during the pandemic. My husband said she reminded him of his grandma. Not only they’re both in their 80s, but also impossible to stop when they start talking.

We know older people need more attention. The thing is, my husband knows when to listen to his grandma and how to stop her.

But we didn’t know what to do with the grandma on the screen.

She continued her stories and showed some pictures. Sometimes she almost cried. Sometimes she laughed. After a few minutes, things turned awkward. There was no sign she would stop rambling anytime soon.

Despite being unable to follow what she said, my husband and I stared at the screen, nodding to show our attention. Some others ignored her and did something else.

So who handled the situation better? My husband and I or the others?

The answer is Patricia*. And this is the person I’m going to talk to you about.

* not a real name

Our fake sympathetic reaction didn’t help the grandma stop talking. It allowed the situation to be even more uncontrollable. We can’t say those who ignored her were not doing the right thing either. And I don’t think snapping at her or addressing her too straightforwardly are nice things to do. It’s a grandma. And it’s a church community.

I wasn’t sure if Patricia followed everything she said, but she broke the silence. “That’s wonderful to hear. Thank you for sharing such a fantastic story. Thank you so much! [ brief silence] And [insert someone else’s name], how are you?”

I could finally feel the relief in the air.

She had the boldness to interrupt, bold enough to combine with sufficient gentleness to not hurt the other person’s feeling.

She took the time to listen before making a response. A response no one was willing to make. And that’s how Patricia saved everyone from the awkward situation.

I will tell you how Patricia treats others in general. Even before the pandemic hit our community hard.

We used to have a monthly group discussion on the first Sunday. The church leader would give us a topic to discuss while having breakfast together.

Seeing the same people who tend to talk more is normal in any discussion. A centralised debate is inevitable, especially when it narrows down to two dominant people. In our case, it usually involved historical and political matters. Sometimes national economic issues, which are too much for me to handle.

My husband and I often have a hard time squeezing ourselves in such a conversation. My husband’s personality doesn’t help him show much assertiveness. I, on the contrary, talk a lot. But I often talk for the sake of talking. Holding myself back to not sound dumb is a safe choice.

This type of incident is even more impossible to avoid in conference calls. As I said in my previous post, only one person can speak. And it’s usually the one with a more assertive personality or stronger opinion.

I joined a church service on Zoom. What worked and what didn’t.

Can we sing a hymn together in a conference call?

medium.com

The Asian members, including me, are usually the quietest. I know Patricia notices it. She usually asks the quietest ones one by one to hear their say.

“Let’s hear what Mariana and Justinas have in mind.”

We usually have zero in mind and she knows it. So she’d add, “How is it different from the UK to Lithuania and Indonesia?” or “What’s your personal experience?”

And that’s how we got our proportion to speak.

She made sure no one felt left out in a group discussion.

It’s normal to get carried away, especially in a call full of senior people. They often digress by talking about their grandchildren or their past. The grandma in the introduction is only one case.

Patricia, being a grandma herself, doesn’t look affected by this trait at all. She can identify where everyone loses sight of the Bible study’s objective.

I actually can identify when this occurs, and I’m sure some others do. But no one takes the action as quickly as she does.

When this happens, she’d immediately reread the discussion questions to remind everyone. Or else, she’d summarise the sentences of the person who had digressed. Then she’d try to link it to our discussion topic.

Z oom has shaped a dramatic twist in pandemic-driven modern communication. Even though the video conference shifts our interaction method, it doesn’t change our behaviour. Instead, it emphasises our existing characters.

The centralised interaction, where only one person takes the whole screen with the green/yellow highlight around their image, pushes people with stronger character to get a spot. At the same time, it holds some people back from being the centre of attention.

I’m not saying people with strong characters are bad and quiet people should always be spoiled. However, we need Patricia to bring cohesiveness to a community.

If you have frequent Zoom calls, try to identify a Patricia. It’s probably someone you’ve noticed but not admired enough. Admire her. Patricia deserves the applause to be a brilliant conversationalist I aspire to be.

Because I feel childish when someone has to feed me to talk in a group discussion.

A great conversationalist knows 2 things. The first, is that speech is music. And second, speech is power.

Just like a good song, good speech has a rhythm. Give yourself a few beats before you respond. And the slower you speak, the better your usage of intonation, the more you resonate, and the more powerful you are.

The Foundations of a Great Conversation

You MUST be Completely Relaxed

Social events usually cause quite a bit of tension in our bodies, from the excitement, the anticipation and the anxiety over the fear of feeling and looking foolish. We all have it. Please note that almost everyone at the event is feeling similarly to you, and most people are too concerned about themselves to be overly observant about what you are doing. So chances are you won’t look foolish no matter what you do. Do your OSLIC relaxation exercises until you can rid your body of tension at any given moment.

Speak Slowly

Once you are completely relaxed, there will be times during conversations when you want to share your opinion, make a witty observation, or relay a brief anecdote. Leave lengthy pauses between breath groups. Connect your breath groups (linking, don’t drop the ball) but utter them slowly. The same story told twice, once slowly, once quickly will have two different impacts on the audience. The one told quickly will be confusing and boring. The one told slowly will leave your audience at the edge of their seat hanging on your every last word.

Use a Great Deal of Effective Intonation

Lengthen and increase volume of the vowels you need to emphasize and significantly reduce length and volume of all other vowels. There should be approximately a 1 to 7 ratio of big to small.

Use Back Resonance

Always use a full resonance just above the back of the tongue. You can maintain that resonance by pairing it with linking. Each breath group is beautifully maintained by “hovering” that “ball of energy” over the back of your tongue.

A Great Conversation Has Rules

An effective communicator and conversationalist will spend most of his or her time listening. People want to be heard. They want to spend time with people who understand them. Really listen to people when they speak. Try to understand them. React during appropriate times by letting them know that you hear them.

“I understand what you mean.” “I know the feeling.” “I gotcha.”

It makes people feel good to know that they are understood. Try not to fall into the trap of preparing what you are going to say next while others are speaking. You will have the opportunity to speak and when you do you will have a firm grasp on your communicative partners’ feelings, preferences, wit, etc and you will be well-equipped to speak.

Be Brief

Keep your stories/anecdotes short and sweet. Concise and to the point. Good story-tellers practice their tales. They do so during their free time in their minds or aloud in front of the mirror. They do so during real-time situations.

Ask Questions

If you are speaking with someone whom you find interesting, ask for more detail when there is more you’d like to learn about their topics. Always keep your questions open-ended rather than asking yes or no questions. Examples of this include: “How do you feel about…?” and “What do you think about…?”

Segue

Segue into something more profound. Basic conversations regarding weather and everyday activities can end at a brick wall. You can prevent that by considering your emotions as a result of a topic. The best communicators understand that humans have feelings that are similar to their own. Understand how you feel about something and you will have insight as to how others might feel. Remember that opinions are different from emotions.

Phrases to Use

The best conversationalists practice active listening and ask questions. Here are some examples of active listening: “I understand what you mean.” “I know the feeling.” “I gotcha.”

Asking open ended questions is the best way to strike up a conversation or keep the conversation going. Here are some examples of open ended questions: “How do you feel about…?” and “What do you think about…?”.

Finally, asking unique or interesting questions are the best way to break out of the day to day malaise. Here are some examples of unique questions: “How’s your spirit?”, “How are you changing the world this year?”,What is the last thing you found absolutely delightful?”

Ita Olsen has been featured on Good Morning America and the Today Show. “You can be crystal clear, concise, authoritative & highly influential,” says Ita. “I take you there in the most efficient fashion. And I make your new skills a habit.” Contact Ita for a complimentary consultation at [email protected], or send her a tweet @ConveyClearly.

This article is incomplete.
Please feel free to edit this article to add missing information and complete it.
Reason: How their level is affected, If they can have special moves other than Egg Moves, How many Watts the player earns from defeating them.

How to be a brilliant conversationalist

Brilliant Pokémon (Japanese: オーラポケモン Aura Pokémon) are Pokémon with special auras in the overworld that can appear in Pokémon Sword and Shield. They have certain properties that are distinct from other Pokémon in the area.

Brilliant Pokémon can be encountered by one of two methods: as symbol encounters or via fishing. Symbol encounter Brilliant Pokémon give off a visible yellow aura in the overworld, whereas when fishing the aura is around the fishing spot. Once the player encounters the Pokémon, its aura is not seen again.

Contents

  • 1 Properties
  • 2 Appearance rate
    • 2.1 Symbol encounters
    • 2.2 Fishing
  • 3 In other languages

Properties

Brilliant Pokémon have the following properties:

  • They are typically a higher level than the average Pokémon in the area.
  • They know an Egg Move.
  • They have two or three of their IVs guaranteed to be 31.
  • The player earns Watts for catching or defeating them, with high-level Brilliant Pokémon yielding more Watts.

Appearance rate

Symbol encounters

The more Pokémon of a particular species that the player has caught or defeated, the more likely Pokémon of that species are to appear as symbol encounter Brilliant Pokémon. The number of times a player has encountered a particular species of Pokémon is recorded in their Pokédex.

Additionally, the chance of encountering a Shiny Pokémon will increase a maximum of 3% of the time.

Encounters Brilliant Pokémon rate Shiny Pokémon rate
0 Cannot appear Normal rate
1–19 Normal rate Normal rate
20–49 1.3× normal rate Normal rate
50–99 1.6× normal rate 2× normal rate
100–199 2× normal rate 3× normal rate
200–299 2× normal rate 4× normal rate
300–499 2× normal rate 5× normal rate
500+ 2× normal rate 6× normal rate

Fishing

How to be a brilliant conversationalist

When fishing, Brilliant Pokémon are more likely to occur the more consecutive Pokémon are successfully reeled in and defeated, regardless of species. If the player fails to reel in a Pokémon, catches a Pokémon, flees from a Pokémon, leaves the area, or turns off the game, their streak is broken and the rate of encountering a Brilliant Pokémon via fishing resets.

You probably shy away from some people on social occasions. Their conversations are tedious. You groan inwardly when they approach for you know that they are unremittingly dull company. Equally you may be fortunate enough to know some brilliant conversationalists who can enliven any discussion and who are excellent company whatever the circumstances. In what category would other people place you? How can you improve your conversational skills to become a welcome sight at every party and social event you attend? Here are some pointers that might help.

Most people prefer to talk about themselves rather than hear about you, so asking questions is a great way to start and to refresh conversations. If you meet someone for the first time, start by asking simple, non-threatening questions about them, what they do, where they live etc. If you know someone moderately well then you should be aware of some of their interests so simple questions about those are good ways to start. As you get to know people better you can ask more searching and interesting questions. For example, ‘What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced in your life?’ or, ‘What is your greatest ambition?’

In a group similar considerations apply. You should generally start new conversations by throwing out questions rather than making statements or talking about things you have done. By asking questions you draw other people in and engage them. It is said that small minds talk about people, moderate minds talk about events and great minds talk about ideas. By all means start the conversation with some small talk but once it is going be prepared to introduce some questions relating to issues and ideas. We will discuss where to get the ideas shortly. Obviously you have to judge the nature of the group first so it is important to follow the second rule.

Great conversationalists are great listeners. Whether you are with one person or a group listen attentively. People like good listeners – wouldn’t you rather speak with someone who was interested in what you had to say rather than someone who looked bored and indifferent? Also, when you listen you learn. When you are speaking you are not learning anything new. Make a conscious effort to focus on what people say. Show that you are interested by asking questions that support and develop the conversation; ‘What do you mean exactly?’, ‘What happened next?’, ‘How did you feel about that?’

As you listen in a group, observe how people are reacting to the conversation. Are they engaged or ready for a change of topic? Is it time to move up from small talk to something more serious or time to lighten the mood with some humour? By listening and observing you can time your contribution to bolster the current conversation or move it forward to something new and interesting.

Pay compliments whenever you sincerely can. If someone looks smart or has lost weight or has a stylish new haircut then show that you have noticed by giving a genuine compliment. ‘That colour really suits you.’ ‘You are looking very trim today.’ If they tell you about some achievement – say at work or by one of their children then congratulate them. As a matter of general courtesy and good manners you should always thank and compliment your host. Tell them what a great success the event is and how much you are enjoying it. Pick on some detail that they have chosen for the occasion that you like and tell them how well it has worked or how much you like it.

Keep up to date on topical issues

It is important to keep abreast of key current issues and topics in the news, entertainment, sports and politics. You should be ready to comment with questions, ideas, facts and opinions on the issues that other people are interested in. So see a few of the latest movies, read some of the most popular fiction and non-fiction, read the newspapers, watch the news, keep up with some major sports stories and watch some TV – but not too much. You do not need to slavishly follow every Soap but if someone asks you what are your favourite TV programmes then you should be able to list some popular and serious programmes and justify what it is you like about them.

When discussing serious topics be prepared to oppose the conventional view and to take a rather provocative stance – even for the sake of doing so. This will lead to a more interesting conversation than if you just agree with what is said. For example if everyone is against some political leader, then come to their defence with examples of strengths or achievements. Make your points with conviction, evidence and, if possible, humour. But in a social environment be careful not to become belligerent or cantankerous. In general it is best to avoid really sensitive or controversial topics especially if they risk offending people’s personal feelings.

There is a place for serious discussion and there is a place for the light-hearted, so be ready to contribute in either environment. Witty comments tend to be spontaneous, clever and unexpected so being witty is not an easy skill to develop but there are some things you can do. Observe witty people in action and see how they contribute. Be bold enough to add your comments and witticisms and carefully watch reactions to see whether you are hitting the right note. Have a stock of funny stories. Do not force them into the conversation but have them ready when you get the cue or when there is a lull. Personal anecdotes relating to unusual experiences and misfortunes that befell you often go down well. Develop and practice some self-deprecating stories. Jokes, quotes and other people’s witty remarks can also be used sparingly and with acknowledgement. But beware of smutty or offensive stories in mixed company. Laugh at other people’s funny stories, even if you have heard them before, but never give away someone else’s punch line.

Be yourself, be natural and don’t try to be anything that you are not. Approach the situation with a positive attitude and tell yourself that you are going to have a good time and meet some interesting people. Relax, smile and enjoy the occasion. People prefer to mix with the happy and good-natured rather than the grumpy and miserable. By all means have a couple of drinks but not too many or you risk undoing all your good work!

How to be a brilliant conversationalist

You know how the cat magically goes to the person with the allergy? Or she goes the person who happens to agree with Preacher Man, the Corgi, who believes that all cats are agents of the devil? Meanwhile, the person who loves cats is cooing and coaxing with raw fish but the cheeky cat hoists her tail a bit higher and gives us that view as she saunters her way out of the room. Cats think people try too hard. They’re suckers for the one who plays hard to get. Corgis are doomed.

How to catch a cat: Just don’t. Don’t look, don’t talk, and absolutely don’t let the thought cross your mind that you’d like to scratch those ears. Then relax and let the cat sneak up on you from behind. Cats can’t resist mystery.

Now pretend that a horse is as smart and curious and playful as a cat. And you want to think you are at least as clever as a corgi. This part is much more complicated because we’re only human.

Sometimes we let our minds get a little soft. We are prone to thinking we’re not predators or prey; instead we act like intellectuals, spending time in our minds and mistaking that for the natural world where cats and horses live. In other words, we’re boring.

We debate training technique but then work by rote, busy with opinion and not being fully present with the horse. We unconsciously halter the same way every time. We lead them like they are bricks on the end of a rope.

What if we thought of ourselves as artists? We agree that riding is an art, but do we hesitate to call ourselves artists? That’s silly; it takes an amazing amount of creativity to get out of the house in the morning.

We are a creative species but we get lazy and use our intellect to doubt ourselves. We let ourselves be ordinary when all we need is a bit of conscious energy. Energy that we can dial up or down like a thermostat on an oven.

Creativity isn’t a mystery, it’s a habit like brushing your teeth. Or cooking with spices. Or loving someone. Creativity is the cherry on top; it’s the extra dollop of energy that adds zing to life. It’s a skill –like horsemanship, only with a smile on your face.

When I meet a horse, I start with a simple question like can you please take a step back? I ask him with the method I least expect the horse to know. I ask politely and he thinks about it.

His owner wants him to succeed, so she interrupts and tells me how she cues him to back. To be clear, all three of us know he can back. And I could care less if he backs, I am establishing a conversation.

If a horse has just one cue, how do we know he isn’t answering by rote, too? Unconscious action might be the first thing we teach horses. I want a fresh response, so I want to engage him. I want to be interesting and mysterious. That’s how he’ll know who I am.

The two things I know more than anything else about horses is that they like consistency. They are like us that way, they like dinner on time and the comfort of knowing they are safe in their home.

And second, horses get bored easily. Just like us. Are you both so used to acting by rote than you think it’s normal? Is your horse unresponsive? Would your horse say that you are?

So, I give the horse a minute to up his game. Anyone can back, I want him to be curious about me. Not because I have a stick or a loud voice but because I listen to him. If he looks like he’s thinking, then I reward him profusely and it’s game on. But if he looks like he isn’t thinking, I’m not fooled. Horses are as smart as cats; I reward him, too. Because energy should always be rewarded.

Here’s the secret: Disarm him with unpredictable release.

Be brand new; fluid in your movements, soft in your eye, agile on your feet. Step out of his space. Unpredictable release.

Go in his pen and actively don’t catch him. Hold the halter in your hand and studiously do not try. Unpredictable release.

Go to the mounting block and don’t mount. Scratch his withers and go untack him. Unpredictable release.

Work at liberty but trust him. Ride bareback and massage his ribs with your knees. Ride with a neck ring that you are patient with… patience is creativity, too.

Instead of warming up with too much contact too soon, along with too much distraction and worry, warm up with too much music and fluidity. Unpredictable release.

Being mentally active means the rider is using less physical strength but keeping her energy up. He mimics you. If he isn’t forward, well, wake your-own-self up, change the length of his stride, longer or shorter using just your sit-bones. Think with your seat and legs. Still your voice and breathe. Crank up the music.

Long walk in a soft leg yield, barely asking his withers to the outside. Think inside leg to outside rein while moving in serpentines. Continue reversing direction until neither of you can remember having a stiff side.

Sometimes ask for tiny things and sometimes big. It isn’t that you don’t train the hard challenges; it’s that your train them as if they’re fun.

Then ask again, and be ready for a different answer. You don’t know what he’ll do and that’s the best part. It’s the call to energy and creativity. Unpredictable release.

I want to be the most interesting thing in the world to my horse. I want our conversation so scintillating that he hangs on my every word, and by that I mean, that I don’t cue by rote. I keep my energy percolating.

I want to have the consistency that makes him feel safe and yet still be mysterious and interesting enough to hold his attention. I want him focused on me and I’ll train that by focusing on him. I want him to think it’s more fun working with me that staring at plastic bags flapping in the wind.

Ride like a cat. Listen, bat some ideas around, then mentally pounce on one and chase it down so you can play with it. Now reward your own creativity for making work feel like play.