I think that I am not alone with the struggle for starting a conversation. I am always there racking my brain for something to say, slightly embarrassed that I will of course say the wrong thing. I have friends that are never lost for words, they always have something smart or entertaining to say and can always put you at ease regardless of whether in a one on one or a group environment.

The art of conversation is a necessary skill for almost everything in life. Conversations help introduce you to people, employers, employees, partners or friends. Without conversations as the foundation for those relationships, you’ll have a hard time building a social circle, starting a business or advancing your career.

Once a conversation gets going, providing the person is responsive, you should have little problem maintaining that momentum—for most of us, getting it started is the hardest part.

Just like any skill it needs practice so we can feel competent, we may not become a silver-tongued party schmoozer but will be able to hold your own in any environment.

Here is a reminder of the conversation etiquette do’s and don’ts:

  • Strive for a balance of give and take. Do not dominate a conversation or make it all about you. We should listen more than we talk.
  • Show interest and curiosity in others. Adopt topics to suite the listener. No point in talking to most girls about changing an oil filter, unless they are a mechanic or interested in cars.
  • Do ask interesting and thoughtful questions to continue the flow of conversation. E.g., Ask them what the hardest part of their job is, why that hobby is of interest to them.
  • Do practice active listening skills by maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, and adding “hmmms” and “uh-huhs” at appropriate moments.
  • Do think before you speak, why make derogatory statements or rant. Avoid the verbal battles around sex, religion and politics.
  • Do not interrupt and cut in with your own ideas before the other person is finished speaking.
  • Everyone has a right to express themselves even if you don’t agree with what they are saying, maintain an open mind.
  • Be current, know what is going on in the world by staying on top of the latest news, developments and world events.
  • Be approachable by staying relaxed, smiling and maintaining a friendly attitude.
  • Do not be dismissive when people are trying to engage you in a conversation, remember they are trying to find out more about you and are providing you with an opportunity to open up.

Of course the number one rule with everything is Be Natural. Talk about things that you’re comfortable talking about; use words that you’re comfortable using. For a solid, meaningful relationship to develop between two parties there must be substance, shared interests, willingness to grow, and mutual respect.

Become a person whose company others seek by having meaningful conversations to contribute. Not only will you enrich your own life in the process, you will enrich the lives of others.

Happiness is