Conversation is not a verbal nor vocal contest, but a mutual meeting of minds. It is not a monologue, but a reciprocal exchange of ideas.
There are cardinal rules which everyone should observe in conversation. The first of these is to be prepared always to give courteous and considerate attention to the ideas of others. There is no better way to cultivate your own conversational powers than to train yourself first to be an interesting and sympathetic listener.
It is in bad taste to interrupt a speaker. This is a common fault which should be resolutely guarded against. Moreover, your own opportunity to speak will shortly come if you have patience, when you may reasonably expect to receive the same uninterrupted attention which you have given to others.
Never allow yourself to monopolize a conversation. This is a form of selfishness practiced by many persons apparently unaware of being ill-mannered. It is inexcusably bad taste to tell unduly long stories or lengthy personal experiences. If you cannot abridge a story to reasonable dimensions, it would be better to omit it entirely. The habitual long-story teller may easily become a bore.
Avoid the habit of eagerly matching the other person's story or experience with one of your own. There is nothing more disconcerting to a speaker than to observe the listener impatiently waiting to plunge headlong into the conversation with some marvellous tale. Be particularly careful not to outdo another speaker in relating your own experiences. If, for instance, he has just told how he caught fifty fish upon a recent trip, do not succumb to the temptation to tell of the time you caught fifty-one.
Be careful not to give unsolicited advice. It has been well said that advice which costs nothing is worth what it costs. If people desire your counsel they will probably ask for it, in which case they will be more likely to appreciate what you have to tell them.
Do not voluntarily recommend doctors, dentists, osteopaths, pills, coffee substitutes, health foods, health resorts, or panaceas for the ills of mankind. If you can be of service to others in these particular respects, it will be when you are specifically asked for such information.
It is most imprudent to carry an argument to extremes. If you observe an unwillingness in the other person to be convinced by what you say, you had better turn to another subject. Conversation should never resolve itself into controversial debate.
It is well to avoid discursiveness, over-use of parentheses, and positiveness of statement. Keep your desires and feelings from over-coloring your views. A flexible attitude of mind is more likely to win an opponent to your way of thinking.
Take special pains to enter into the minds and feelings of others. Be interested in what they want to talk about. Let your interest be deep and sincere. Adopt the right tone, temper, and reticence in your conversation.
You should accustom yourself to look at things from the other person's standpoint. It is surprising how this habit enlarges the vision and gives a charitableness to speech which might otherwise be absent. It is well to remember that no person can possibly have a monopoly of knowledge upon any subject.
Good conversation demands restraint, adaptability, and reasonable brevity. There is an appalling waste of words on all sides, hence you should constantly guard yourself against this fault. When there is nothing worth-while to say, the best substitute is silence.
Practice self-discipline in talking. Correct any fault in yourself the instant you recognize it. If, for example, you realize that you are talking at too great length, stop it at once. Should you feel that you are not giving interested attention to the speaker, check your mind-wandering immediately and concentrate upon what is being said.
Do not be always setting other people right. This is a thankless as well as useless task. They probably do not want your assistance, or they would ask for it. Besides most people are sensitive about their shortcomings, and prefer to get help and counsel in private.
There is no more important suggestion than to rule your moods. Ofttimes the feelings run away with the judgment. What you think and say today may be due to your present mood, rather than to matured judgment. Let your common sense predominate at all times.
It is not well to give too strong expression to your likes and dislikes. These, like all your feelings, should be governed with a firm hand. Opinions advanced with too much emphasis may easily fail to impress other minds. Remember always that your greatest ally is truth. Therefore frankly and faithfully examine your important opinions before giving them expression.
Resist the desire to be prominent in conversation, or to say clever and surprising things. This is sometimes difficult to do, but it is the only safe course to follow. If you have something brilliant or worth-while to say, it will be best said spontaneously and with due modesty. But if there is no suitable opportunity to say it, put it back in your mind where it may improve with age. Egotism is taboo in polite society.
The suggestion that nothing should be allowed to pass the lips that charity would check is invaluable advice. It is unfortunately all too common to give hasty and harsh expression to personal opinions and criticisms. Reticence is one of the most essential conditions of long friendship.
Judgment and tact are necessary to good conversation. It is not well to ask many questions, and then only those of a general character. Curiosity should be curbed. Quite properly people resent inquisitiveness. The best way to cultivate the rare grace of judgment is to be mindful of your own faults and to correct them with all speed and thoroughness.
The word |talk| is often used in a derogatory sense, and we hear such expressions as |all talk,| |empty talk,| and |idle talk.| But as everyone talks, we should all do our utmost to set a high example to others of the correct use of speech.
It is always better to talk too little than too much. Never talk for mere talking's sake. Avoid being artificial or pedantic. Don't antagonize, dogmatize, moralize, attitudinize, nor criticise. Talk in poise, -- quietly, deliberately, sincerely, and you will never lack an attentive audience.