Initiating and maintaining a conversation is critical to building your executive confidence. When you do not know how to do this, people will see you as a boring and uninteresting person to be with and it will be difficult for you to get to do business with them later on.

One of my biggest weakness used to be initiating and maintaining a conversation. When a conversation was not focused on business and business related issues, I find it difficult to remain in it for more than a few minutes. I realised that this was a great weakness because people had other issues they want to talk about beyond business and I knew I had to find a solution.

I remembered what I read in the book HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLEUNCE PEOPLE. I took one of the lessons there and mastered it. It was that if you want to maintain a conversation, learn to ask Questions. I worked on this and with it could keep a conversation going for hours. I will ask the person am discussing with a question and from his reply, ask him another question and from the next reply ask him another one.

While I am asking and he is replying, I am making a mental note of other entry points from his previous answers. If a particular type of question and answer hits a brick wall, I will go back to one entry point from his previous answers and start asking him again.

This works like magic and has helped me maintain long conversations. I have come to realise that people want to talk a lot about themselves and their interests. No matter how withdrawn a person may be, start a conversation in his or her line of interest after finding out what the interest is and asking questions about the interest, you would find it difficult to pull yourself out of that discussion.

I have used this strategy so well and the funny thing is that I might be talking with someone for hours. At the end of the day, I will know almost everything about them with them knowing practically little or nothing about me.
Once in a while, some people will ask me a question about myself or my area of interest. When I answer them they rarely want to ask a follow up question and I will immediately start my next round of asking.

Another strategy I use in maintaining a conversation is to read widely about things in different areas of life. I have discovered that from reading question about different facets of life, I can ask sensible question to anyone and he or she will know that I know something about the industry he or she works in or his or her area of interest. It will be difficult to ask follow up questions, if you do not know some basic things about what interests a person.

Lets say you meet an Israeli, after the initial introduction, you may ask him the origin of Kosher, then follow by asking if it is not difficult for him living in Africa to get food items that are Kosher. When you come from this angle, he can see that you have more than a fleeting interest in his origin and history and would spend the whole day telling you about Israeli food.

Make people feel at ease around you. To be a great conversationalist, you must practice letting people feel at ease around you. Learn to smile and welcome people be the first to introduce yourself to people you meet for the first time. Enquire about people’s family and other areas of interest. Show interest in people as human beings and not as tools to achieve a goal. Let people see the care and love in you. Create and sustain a positive energy around you so that you would readily attract people to be around you.


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