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Six Benefits of Better Conversation

Stimulating, pleasurable conversation need not only be an end in itself. Good conversation skills can be both an adhesive in relationships and a solvent for all kinds of troubling problems

by Loren Ekroth

Benefit 1: To be better understood

Strong conversation skills will virtually guarantee that you will be better understood by most people.

Because misunderstandings can cause such troubles in life and because they can be so costly, reducing misunderstanding to a minimum allows our lives to flow along more smoothly and productively.

Before: George, the manager, had a tendency to talk in generalities and use a lot of jargon that confused his people. As a result, they were guessing at what he meant and made many mistakes.

After: George got more specific by using less jargon and more examples. Also, he made it comfortable for his people to ask questions for clarification, And he checked to see that they understood what he intended. The result was less frustration, greater trust, and higher effectiveness.

Benefit 2: To have better understanding

Conversation competence almost always results in your better understanding of others.

Why? Because when you are not sure you got the intended meaning, you have ways to check and clarify. Furthermore, you have good listening skills that allow you to listen deeply instead of rehearsing what you're going to say next.

Before: Henry's wife was frequently frustrated when he didn't seem to pay attention. He'd bury himself in the newspaper and "sort of" listen with partial attention while doing other things. Many times he'd misunderstand or remember only bits and pieces of what she considered important. His behavior was straining their relationship.

After: Now Henry doesn't multi-task and listen at the same time. He and Betty have designed a "talk time" when they give one another full attention during a 30 minute period, with each one having 15 minutes. They found a quiet place on their patio where they can talk without interruption.

Betty feels heard and understood, and Henry is sharing more of his personal concerns and feels more supported.

Benefit 3: Better self-confidence

Knowing that you can manage a wide variety of conversations builds your self-confidence for navigating social life. You can say to yourself, "I can do it because I've done it." Your competence is a solid platform that supports your confidence.

Before: Sue was uneasy when around people she didn't already know. She avoided social functions and mixers even though those would be valuable to her profession as an accountant and her life as a person.

After: After acquiring new conversation skills, Sue became less self-conscious and more outgoing. She was now fun to be with, lively and engaged, and less concerned about what others might think of her.

She has been invited to interview for a better position with a different firm and feels confident that she can win the job.

Benefit 4: Workplace value

For at least 50 years, the majority of companies rank "communication skills" at the top of their list of competencies for new hires. As top-down management flattened out, more employees have been expected to be effective in self- managed teams of equals and be able to coach or mentor new hires.

When promoted to managing a group, an employee has even greater conversational challenges because of the diversity of others and needs for adapting to different styles. People who have outstanding interpersonal skills tend to be rewarded with promotions and benefits.

Benefit 5: Better self-care

The better your conversation skills, the better you can take care of yourself in life. You'll be subject to less manipulation, for example. You will have tact as well as skill and be able to minimize contact with toxic people and verbal trouble-makers.

Like the great samurai warrior in the movie Yojimbo (played by Toshiro Mifune), difficult people will be far less able to mess with you. When your skills are higher, your verbal bullies will be fewer.

Benefit 6: Better relationships

As your conversation skills develop, so can your relationships. After all, relationships are primarily based on how we talk to each other and build bridges of understanding.

During my 25 years of helping couples in marital counseling, the biggest problem presented was "communication." Not only problems in the communication process, either. As well, the impact of other problems like money, in-laws, and child-rearing was compounded by spouses unwillingness or inability to talk them through to resolution.

When partners learned better ways to talk with each other, their difficulties decreased.

Learn from the masters

Better conversation skills are both an adhesive in relationships and a solvent for troubling problems.

Fortunately, you can steadily build your skills day by day by observing ideal models of conversation and adopting their superior skills. You can learn from masters if you spend time with them, pay attention to what they do, and put their skills into your personal practice.

Loren Ekroth 2006, All rights reserved

Loren Ekroth, Ph.D. is a specialist in human communication and a national expert on conversation for business and social life. His articles and programs strengthen critical communication skills for business and professional people. Contact Loren at Loren@conversation-matters.com. Check out a wealth of valuable resources and articles at http://www.conversation-matters.com.

Some Related Articles:
Does Your Conversation Bomb?
Conversational Nourishment
Sharpening Your Conversation Skills
Five Ways to Remain Focused and Stay in the Moment
Conversations: Going Deeper Faster
Emotional Intelligence and the Art of Conversation
Conversation and Compulsive Talkers
Overcoming Conversational Power Plays
Do You Have Problems With C.A.D.D?
Conversation: Is It a Declining Art?
The Art of Starting a Conversation
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