Great tips for great conversations

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Learning how to talk well is important for new people. These skills are needed to make new friends. They also help to talk with others. And they help to become a part of the group of people. People who are learning English might be afraid. They might not know what to say when they talk. This fear can stop them from trying. It’s important to know that good talking is not just about what we say. It’s also about how we hear.

10 ways to have better conversations

In this TED Talk, a famous news reporter and radio show host named Celeste Headlee shares 10 useful tips for having good talks. The most important tip she gives is “Listen to people, keep your mind open and be ready to be surprised!”


10 lessons from the TED Talk:

  1. Don’t multitask – Focus on the talk. Don’t let your phone or other people in the room distract you.
  2. Don’t pontificate – Don’t talk for a long time. To listen well, you need to stop thinking about your own thoughts and ideas. This will make you ready to listen and learn. As Bill Nye said, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”
  3. Use open-ended questions – Ask questions like “What was it like?” or “How did you feel?”
  4. Go with the flow – Let your thoughts come and go when you’re talking with someone. Don’t think too much about what you’re going to ask next and forget to listen to what the other person is saying now.
  5. Be honest – If you don’t know something, just say that you don’t know.
  6. It’s not about you – Don’t compare your experiences with someone else’s. They are never the same. People want you to listen to their own unique experiences.
  7. Try not to repeat yourself – Don’t say the same thing again because it is not interesting to listen to something you’ve heard before.
  8. Stay out of the weeds – This means don’t talk about unnecessary details. Isn’t it annoying when someone tells a story with so much background information that it takes a long time to get to the end? Talking about too many details in a conversation will make you boring and hard to listen to.
  9. Listen – Buddha said, “If your mouth is open, you’re not learning.” You don’t have to agree with everything you hear but it is a good habit to listen first without judging. Don’t interrupt with your own thoughts. Stephen Covey said, “Most of us don’t listen with the goal to understand, we listen with the goal to reply.” It would be a good rule to avoid doing this.
  10. Be brief – “A good talk is like a short skirt; short enough to keep interest, but long enough to cover the topic.”

Connecting in Manitoba

Starting a chat in the friendly place of Manitoba is simple. People like meeting new people and making them feel welcome. Here are some extra tips to help you:

  1. Be nice and kind

    Always say good morning, hello, or hi to people. Then ask “how are you?” This is the usual way to start a chat. Always answer with “good, thanks” (or something similar) when someone asks you “how are you?” Try your best to talk about happy things. Don’t start a chat by complaining about the weather, the cars on the road, or another person. This is not nice. No one wants to chat with a person who is always unhappy.

  2. Have a good answer to common questions

    People like to ask new people questions like “How do you like Manitoba/Canada so far?” You don’t have to say “I love it here!” when you don’t (but do say it if you do!). But don’t make people unhappy by pointing out every small thing that you don’t like. Be careful with your words and say something like “I’m still getting used to the cold weather but I like how friendly the people are. I can’t wait for spring to see the beautiful and fresh views”. Then ask them what they love about Manitoba or Canada. You’ll learn more this way.

  3. Body language

    In the video, Celeste says that you don’t have to pretend to be interested when you are interested. But, there are also cultural things involved in body language. Keeping eye contact and nodding your head at certain times of the chat are the most common ways to show that you are listening. It will also be good if you keep a comfortable space between you and the person talking (about an arm’s length) so you don’t invade personal space. Don’t yawn while in a chat even if it’s not on purpose. It can be seen as a sign that you’re bored and will make the person you’re chatting with unhappy.

Chatting skills do not come naturally. They have to be worked on. Keep improving by getting better at your English skills, talking to others often, staying open, and most of all, listening and being truly interested in the people around you.
Article updated July 18, 2023.

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