Master The Art Of Conversation

Here, I bring to your notice an attribute that will serve you all your life—the art of conversation. You have an immediate relevance of it in the context of the Personality Test that you must conquer as a last citadel in your journey to ace various competitive examinations, particularly the UPSC Civil Services Examination. For example, you must have received many tips on how to crack the UPSC CSE interview like understand the true nature of the interview, delve deep into your DAF and prepare accordingly, and read newspapers and magazines like Competition Success Review (CSR) to keep abreast of current affairs, and so on. All that certainly helps. However, what enables you to elevate your interview to a more satisfying proposition is your mastery of the art of conversation. And besides in the interviews for a job selection, it also gives you a winning edge in all public affairs throughout your life.

What differentiates a conversation from a chatter, gossip, debate, or any other two-way verbal communication? Cambridge Dictionary defines conversation as a “talk between two or more people in which thoughts, feelings, and ideas are expressed, questions are asked and answered, or news and information is exchanged.” In essence, a conversation is a civilised speech. It is more purposeful than chatter, more humane than gossip, and more intimate than debate. A conversation is an encounter involving two or more polished minds: tactful enough to listen, confident enough to express their beliefs, and subtle enough to search out the reasons behind the thoughts. A conversation is a work of art in which we long for ourselves to be liked by another person.

Every good conversation starts with a good listener. You must not only listen but also be seen as listening. You can only be seen as listening by actually listening attentively, which immediately reflects not only in your eyes and facial expressions but also in how you respond to the fundamental points raised before you. Going one step further, as William Hazlitt (1778-1830), one of the greatest English essayists and philosophers, said, “The art of conversation is the hearing as well as being heard.” A great conversation, in fact, inspires you to elevate your thinking. “To listen closely and reply well is the highest perfection we are able to attain in the art of conversation,” said Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680), the French moralist of the Classic Literature era. To quote Mr. Mathew Hussey, a contemporary British life coach and writer, “Being a great conversationalist is about two things: creating intrigue and interest and creating emotional connections.” The final words belong to Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), the British statesman and two-time UK Prime Minister, who said, “The art of conversation is to be prompt without being stubborn, to refute without argument, and to clothe great matters in a motley garb.”

Conversation doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Even if you are gifted with good conversational skills, it is an art you must constantly learn and hone to master it. Here are some simple tips to help you become a good conversationalist. First, practise active and reflective listening. This means concentrating fully on the speaker and expressing non-verbal cues to show you are giving full attention. Second, practise the best way of self-disclosure, or what and how you should reveal about yourself. Many UPSC interviews begin with a simple but tricky question—“Tell us something about yourself”. You must be very careful about what you should disclose in the first instance, depending on the occasion. On a formal occasion like a job interview, your choice of details must be precise and strictly related to the job you seek. You should also put them forward in a way that is interesting and reflective of your overall personality. However, in an informal conversation, you must share your stories in a way that encourages good conversation flow. Third, you should be seen as interested as well as interesting. Fourth, you should be true to yourself. Your best asset is your true self. Fifth, you should maintain positive body language. Reinforce your spoken words through your body language. Sixth, you should maintain a friendly or respectful tone, depending on the occasion. Seventh, you should maintain your speaking volume to the setting, neither sounding too loud that it is taken as arrogance nor too low to become inaudible.

The toppers’ interviews CSR carries meticulously in every issue serve as good pointers for being a good conversationalist during a job interview. The Group Discussion we publish in every issue on a relevant subject also provides you with good and bad practices in a conversation. All this can help you learn and hone the art of a good conversation.

You have my best wishes for each of your endeavours to emerge as a compelling conversationalist in your own

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