An essential skill for any Coach is the ability to communicate, but what if you are a poor conversationalist? If you find it difficult to hold a conversation and feel awkward when talking with someone then I can relate. I’ve struggled to create and hold conversations my entire life but the following ‘hacks’ have helped greatly improve my conversational skills:
People like us find looking someone in the eyes unbelievably awkward. We will constantly shift our focus around the room, sporadically making eye contact before cringing and staring at the floor. However, holding eye contact maintains your focus on the conversation and allows you to listen much better, which in turn helps you partake in the conversation more fluidly. Make and maintain eye contact, that awkward feeling gradually goes, just remember to blink.
Ask open questions
Who, What, Where, When, Why, How. These words are like gold dust in conversation. They encourage a more detailed response. We are never going to be the best at talking, so get the other person to do the talking for us. A great way to start a conversation is with a simple ‘How was your day?’. From there we can follow up with more open questions. For example, a response could be ‘My day was great thanks, although I’m knackered now!’. Rather than an ‘ok’, the response ‘why are you tired?’ encourages further conversation.
Give Decent Answers
When someone asks you a question give them a response that’s worthy of them taking the time to show an interest. They’ve asked for a reason, give them a proper answer. Here’s an example: ‘Hi Jason, what have you been up to?’. My typical response would be ‘Just the usual’. Conversational suicide. If someone asks about your day, then tell them about your day. ‘It’s been great thanks, lots of sessions in the gym and this morning Suzi squatted 60kg! I walked my dogs at lunch and now we are here. How about you?’ A much better answer and the open question at the end continues the conversation.
Seriously. Just like bench pressing and deadlifting, to get better at talking you need to do it more often. I literally sat with my wife and practiced conversational skills, the awkward eye contact, giving proper answers, speaking slowly and clearly, asking open questions and giving interesting more detailed responses. The more you practice with the people that you feel comfortable with the easier it will be to do these things with new people that you meet.
I am no conversation guru and the things I have mentioned may not be supported by any sort of evidence. But I am someone who has found talking to people one of the most awkward and uncomfortable parts of this job. Developing these skills has helped me improve upon this massively, and this has helped shape my career to where it currently is. I hope that if you are like me then they help you too.
By Jason Ditchburn JRD Fitness
LTB has a very popular series of courses relating to communication created by Cathy MacDonald from Art of Communication