10 Secrets of Social Etiquette in Conversation
By Peter Murphy
Social etiquette in conversation isn't about being posh or speaking
with a plum in your mouth. It's about simple good manners. What's most
important is that you put the person you're talking to at ease and
that they feel as though they had chance to say what they wanted to
say and that you listened to them and responded to them sensitively.
There are a few things to bear in mind about conversation etiquette:
1. Don't hijack the conversation
Conversations should be two-way processes where you find out about the
other person and what they think on a topic, as well as telling them
what you think. Looking at the other person's body language will give
you hints about when you've talked enough. Their eyes glazing over as
they heave heavy sighs and glance at their watches is always a clue
you should stop talking pretty soon!
2. Give people time to speak
Not everyone finds it easy to say what they want to say. Don't be
afraid of a few silences in your conversations. A quick look at the
face of the person you're talking to will let you know whether they're
pausing to think of what to say next; if they've fallen asleep in
boredom or if they're scoping the room looking for an escape route!
Whatever it is, you probably ought to let them do it.
3. Invite others in
If you can see that someone is struggling for something to say - help
them out. Phrase what you said differently if it needs a response and
they seem not to understand. But don't be patronizing.
4.Also - ask questions
Make the questions easy to understand and respond to. That will give
the person you're talking to a prompt and help the relax into talking
5. Give people a chance to answer - and make sure you listen.
Some people jump straight in with an answer; others like to ponder a
question and give a considered response. Either of those options is
fine, so make sure you leave time for an answer to be given. You only
have to look at facial expressions and body language to know if they
are wanting you to step in and rescue them by speaking again.
6. Respect other people's opinions
It doesn't really matter whether the world agrees with you, does it?
People are entitled to their opinion and you don't have to launch a
single-handed campaign to convince them of the error of their ways.
You won't succeed anyway and why does it matter to you? Unless someone
is likely to be harmed by holding a particular opinion, leave it well
alone. Even if there is a risk of danger, think carefully about
whether you're the right person to tell them about it.
7. Don't rain on someone's parade
That's partly linked to the last point, but basically, it means don't
dampen someone's enthusiasm. You may see all sorts of pitfalls in
their plans or what they're saying, but do you really have to be the
person to tell them? Can't you let them find out these things for
themselves? After all, the problems you fear may not actually arise.
8. Don't be a know-it-all
You may have a wealth of wisdom and knowledge to pass on to someone,
but unless you do it in the right way, it won't be appreciated and it
won't do any good. It's important not to be smug when passing on
advice. Don't pretend you have all the answers - because you really
don't. Also - don't make the other person feel stupid. It's bad
manners and they won't listen to you anyway.
9. Don't make disagreement personal
It's fine to differ in opinions - even with friends and loved ones.
That's just life and it doesn't hurt anyone. A difference of opinion
doesn't have to cause a row and it can actually lead to an interesting
conversation - if you approach it right.
That means not making the other person feel stupid for thinking as
they do; don't bully or berate someone into agreeing with you - this
actually won't work anyway; even if they say they now agree with you,
they'll probably be lying! Don't resort to abuse and name calling -
and listen to the other person's point of view; you'll have an easier
life - and you may even learn something.
10. Difficult conversations were never meant to be easy
Lack of tact is a huge conversation faux pas. It alienates people and
means you just don't get listened to. Think whether you really need to
have a difficult conversation with someone - if you think the are
making a potentially harmful choice, for instance. Choose your
battles on this and make sure you're the right person to have the
conversation; are you close enough and trusted enough to advise this
It's simple good manners to choose carefully what you say to people.
Make them glad they talked to you. Try to make people feel better for
having talked to you. If you know a comment will be unwanted, don't
make it unless it's absolutely necessary for someone's welfare. Those
are the simple rules of social etiquette in conversation.
Peter Murphy is a peak performance expert. He recently produced a very
popular free report: 10 Simple Steps to Developing Communication
Confidence. This report reveals the secret strategies all high
achievers use to communicate with charm and impact. Apply now because
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