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Welcome Educators! This blog is for you, the Educators. Please ask questions, share ideas and post testimonials about your program, what you're doing in your town and what is working for you. The more we share, the more successful we all will be. Happy Educating!

Monica Irvine
President, The Etiquette Factory

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Skillful Conversationalist

Hello my dear friends. Welcome back to the EF Educator’s Blog, where we master one etiquette skill at a time. This month, we are focusing on becoming more accomplished at entering, holding and exiting a conversation, with manners in mind. This is a skill that all of us, young and old, could probably stand to improve on. Let’s begin.

First, how do we enter a conversation, already in progress? The correct way is to walk up to the group and flash a smile. Then we need to make eye contact with everyone in the group that is willing to make eye contact with us. When there is a break in the conversation, hopefully someone will say, “Hello,” and welcome us into the group. Whoever knows us in the group, has the responsibility of introducing us to the others. It is important to try to keep the conversation on track. For instance, we would not want to walk up to a group already in conversation, drape our arms over their shoulders and say, “Hey guys. What’s up? You’re never going to believe what just happened to me….” This would be extremely rude and would not show consideration to those already in conversation.

Next, let’s talk about holding the conversation. A few simple rules to remember and we are sure to have much success. First and foremost, we must keep eye contact with those whom we are speaking with. This is a hard thing for our children to do, but we must help them master this skill by practicing. It is not polite to look away or at the floor while we are speaking with another. Next, we must use a strong voice, so the one we’re speaking with, hears us clearly. Using a strong voice and keeping eye contact are signs of self confidence, honesty and integrity. Sometimes, we make the mistake of simply talking too fast. Slow down, and enjoy the conversation. When we seem like we’re in a hurry, we can send a message that we would rather be doing something else, besides having this conversation.

Now, let me speak of an issue that plagues many. I know that the second I mention this, all of you are going to think of someone who fits this mold. We’re not working on other’s conversational skills; we’re working on ours, OK. WE MUST TAKE TURNS WHEN SPEAKING DURING A CONVERSATION. If we truly want to show others that we value them, their time and their ideas, then we must make every effort to show them. One way that we can demonstrate these feelings is to not “hog” the conversation. If we talk for 5 minutes, then let the other person speak for 5 minutes. If we described our vacation, then we should ask the other person to tell us about their vacation. In a conversation between friends, there should be equal amounts of talking and listening. Usually, the reason we avoid some people, is because they are conversational “hoggers.” We don’t ever want to be accused of this etiquette blunder. Hopefully, something all of us can ponder and avoid.

Finally, let’s remember how to exit a conversation politely. When there is a break in the conversation, say something like, “It has been really great talking to you about the anatomy of a frog, but I really must be going. Let’s talk again soon.” Remember, while we’re in the conversation, we must show interest in the conversation, even if it’s not our favorite subject. No, fidgeting, yawning, rolling our eyes, switching from foot to foot, looking away, and other behaviors that show boredom or disinterest. And, never, never, never “butt in.” Butting in, causes others to loose their “train of thought,” which is very frustrating.

I hope this helps to remind us the important points of a polite conversation. As we practice these skills, we will show others that we value them and their time. Happy conversations! See you next time.

Very best,
Monica Irvine
CEO/The Etiquette Factory

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