Brian Tracy on Becoming a Great Conversationalist

Today is Thursday, so this post in on communication skills.

All people who are a career and life success have mastered three critical communication skills: conversation, writing, presenting.  The other day, I saw a great post on Brian Tracy’s blog entitled Three Skills to Improve Conversation.  I liked it so much, I’m reposting it here.

Three Skills to Improve Conversation – Brian Tracy


One key to becoming a great conversationalist is to pause before replying.  A short pause, of three to five seconds, is a very classy thing to do in a conversation.  When you pause, you accomplish three things simultaneously.

First, you avoid running the risk of interrupting if the person is just catching his or her breath before continuing.  Second, you show the other person that you are giving careful consideration to his or her words by no jumping in with your own comments at the earliest opportunity.  The third benefit of pausing is that you will actually hear the other person better.  His or her words will soak into a deeper level of you mind and you will understand what he or she is saying with greater clarity.  By pausing, you mark yourself as a brilliant conversationalist.

Ask Questions

Another way to become a great conversationalist is to question for clarification.  Never assume that you understand what the other person is saying or trying to say.  Instead, ask, “how do you mean, exactly?”

This is the most powerful question I’ve ever learned for controlling a conversation.  It is almost impossible not to answer.  When you ask “how do you mean?” the other person cannot stop himself or herself from answering more extensively.  You can then follow up with other open-ended questions and keep the conversation rolling along.

Paraphrase the Speaker’s Words

The third way to become a great conversationalist is to paraphrase the speaker’s words in your own words.  After you’ve nodded and smiled, you can then say, “let me see if I’ve got this right; what you’re saying is…”

By paraphrasing the other person’s words, you demonstrate in no uncertain terms that you are genuinely paying attention and making every effort to understand his or her thoughts or feelings.  And the wonderful thing is, when you practice effective listening, other people will begin to find you fascinating.  They will want to be around you.  They will feel relaxed and happy in your presence.

Listening builds trust.  The more you listen to another person, the more he or she trusts you and believes in you.  Listening also builds self esteem.  When you listen attentively to another person, his or her self esteem will naturally increase.

Finally, listening builds your own self discipline.  Because your mind can process 500 – 600 words a minute, and we can talk only at about 150 words per minute, it takes a real effort to keep your attention focused on another person’s words.  If you do not practice self discipline in conversation, your mind will wander in a hundred different directions.  The more you work at paying close attention to what the other person is saying, the more self disciplined you will become.  By learning to listen well, you actually develop your own character and personality.

Action Exercises

Here are two things you can do immediately to put these ideas into action.

First, make a habit of pausing before replying in any conversation or discussion.  You will be amazed at how powerful this technique really is.

Second, continually ask “how do you mean?” in response to anything that is not perfectly clear.  This gives you even more time to listen well.

This is some great common sense advice on becoming a great conversationalist from Brian Tracy.  Take it to heart – and practice the two exercises Brian suggests, and you’ll become an expert conversationalist.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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