Consider This

Robert Stevenson’s Thoughts on the Pursuit of Excellence

The Art of Conversation

March 16, 2024

by Robert Stevenson

The art of being a great conversationalist has a lot more to do with listening than speaking. Remember, you already know about yourself, so talking about you will seldom gain you anything. The secret to being a fantastic conversationalist is to remember: “It's not about what you say, but how many times you can say 'uh-huh' and 'oh, really?'” Now, that may sound silly, but it really makes a lot of sense. If you can get them talking and keep them talking, you will be noted as the great conversationalist even though you will have said very little. So, saying, “uh-huh” and “oh, really,” will keep that conversation moving along. I heard it once said: "To be a great conversationalist, listen twice as much as you speak, and then you'll be heard twice as much as you listen." I really like that quote.

So, the first key is to listen. Thomas Edison stated, “You will have many opportunities in life to keep your mouth shut: You should take advantage of every one of them.” There isn’t anything wrong with being a great listener. It should be noted you learn nothing while you are talking. I find that smart, successful people are the ones who listen and only speak when they have something to say that is well thought out.

The second key to being a great conversationalist is the ability to ask questions. Remember, you already know about you, so find out about them. Ask questions about family, hobbies, job responsibilities, or favorite vacation locations (to name a few). Show genuine interest in what the other person is saying by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and don’t forget to throw in an occasional “uh-huh” and “oh, really?” Effective listening requires patience to fully understand the speaker's message without rushing the conversation.

The third key is to avoid interrupting them. Here are two quotes you should give some consideration to: "Interrupting is the way to say 'I'm not really listening, but I have something way more important to say,'" and "Interrupting someone is like playing a game of verbal Whac-A-Mole – except instead of moles, it's their thoughts."

I had a terrible habit of always stealing the punch line when my wife was telling a funny story. One day she finally said, “Do you always have to interrupt me and tell the ending?” I remember saying, “But I thought you had finished.” Her reply was, “No, I just took a breath.” I hadn’t realized that I was doing it. I just got wrapped up in her story and was helping her finish. Now, that is downright annoying and is definitely not the sign of a great conversationalist. I was “Whac-A-Moling” her punch line: how rude of me.

Please let this next quote sink in:

"Being a great conversationalist is less
about saying the right things and more
about making the other person feel like
what they're saying is the right thing."

It is both an art and a skill that can enrich your personal and professional life. It is not about being the most talkative person in the room, but rather about fostering genuine connections. IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU; IT IS ABOUT THEM.

"Your only true security in life
is your ability to perform."

About the Author

Robert Stevenson is an expert at building a high-performance business culture, improving efficiency, and accelerating growth. He is one of the most widely sought-after speakers in the world today, as well as a best-selling author. He has owned five companies, sold internationally in over 20 countries. Robert has spoken to over 2,500 companies throughout the world and his research in the area of corporate and entrepreneurial success is extensive. Over 2 million people have benefitted from his powerful, practical, and thought-provoking programs. He is a true master at blending facts, inspiration, conviction, and humor into all his programs.

Companies like FedEx, Prudential, Lockheed Martin, Chevron, American Express, and Berkshire Hathaway continue to rely on him for a fresh, unique perspective on businesses’ most crucial issues. To learn more about Robert and what he can do for your team visit his website at

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