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The Art of Conversation

The Art of Conversation

Today’s executives need to do more than simply succeed: they need to stand out. Communications expert Mark Bowden explains how to use persuasive communication skills to set yourself apart, win trust, and generate profit. His trademark techniques are used by top leaders and political players around the world who want to gain an advantage—beyond words—when they speak. Mark recently provided his tips on how to master the art of conversational exchange in a number of common situations on CTV’s The Social.


It’s difficult to skip small talk because it’s a form of customary communication. For example, “Great weather, isn’t it? Oh yeah, lovely weather.” Or, “How are you doing? I’m fine, thank you.” Small talk is necessary to get you into greater conversation. To jump more quickly into impactful conversation, spend  at least 10 seconds on customary communication. Start with, “How are you? I’m doing okay.” This standard question and response is necessary for everyone to feel comfortable, and then you can get straight into what we call evaluative conversation with questions like, “What do you think of…?” or “What’s your opinion on…?”


For many males, simply receiving attention from the opposite sex can be confused as attraction, especially if the female is engaged in and enjoying the conversation. To ensure non-romantic conversation, communicate verbally versus non-verbally. Non-verbal forms of communication to avoid are flirt signals like touching your hair while engaging, touching his arm, tilting your head, etc. By keeping your head straight, you’re not revealing your neck, so there’s less of a chance that the male you’re chatting with will confuse your intentions. Be curious and ask questions that cause the person to dive deeper, and don’t “love” everything. Simply say, “Oh, that’s really interesting…” or “When did that happen?”


Try and get past basic data questions like who, what, where, when and why; these questions don’t make you sound smart because the answers are simple for the person who has the data. Smarter questions are evaluative questions like “How do you think that event has impacted the industry?” A question like this is going to cause the other person to have to reveal more than just data because it gets he/she thinking and having to evaluate data. Use “you” and “your” questions that are attached to the bigger picture and move away from data .


Work questions are customary questions much like “How’s the weather?” or “How are you?” What tends to happen is people get involved in the details of work, like “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?” These questions are posed in an effort to determine someone’s social position, like “Where do I stand next to this person?” or “Is this person better than me?” It’s a status thing. Although difficult to avoid the conversation about work, get into people’s feelings about their work. For example, start with something like, ”What are you working on at the moment that you’re most interested in?” or, “What do you love about work?” Talking more emotionally will give you a better idea of other things that person is into and vice versa. Once you’ve gotten into more passionate ideas, you’re able to take the conversation in different directions that are not so work-focused.

CTV/June, 2015