Learning the Art of Chitchat


While working on a project, a friend of mine asked if I had developed any resources to help people become better conversationalists. I didn't have anything ready right then, but I was able to share some of my initial thoughts...

I teach people two things: 

1) Go to Dutch Bros every day for a week. Write down the questions they ask you to start chitchat. Those guys are the best at asking questions and making people feel awesome. 

2) Find someone that is passionate about something or has a skill you don't. Ask them to teach you. Like, if I were going to learn about Fantasy Football, I'd want [some mutual friends] to teach me. 

Both of these things will give you practice at being better conversationalist. 

Good conversationalists do three things: 

1) They break the ice and help people relax.

  2) They take the posture of learning about and from others. 

3) They make others feel they are awesome and important. 

Olivia Fox Cabane wrote an excellent book on the subject called, "The Charisma Myth."  In my conversation with my friend, I paraphrased an illustration she gave in the first chapter:

A woman went out for dinner with two potential Prime Ministers of England in one week. When asked what she thought about each, she said something to the effect of, "At the end of the evening, the first had me absolutely convinced of his brilliance. After dinner with the second, he had me absolutely convinced of mine." The second ended up winning the race. 

Extroversion or introversion are characteristics we are born with. Being a good conversationalist, however, is a skill we can learn and hone. 

At its core, being a good conversationalist is all about making others feel awesome. And, who wouldn't want to get better at that?

JournalPaul Watson