Espresso 10 – 8 Qualities of a Successful Talker

8 Qualities of a Successful Talker


Following are a few conversational “rules of engagement” which, if prayerfully applied, will help you better approach any conversation with ease and confidence—whether it’s the guy next door, someone from another Home, a potential contact or long time supporter. As the article excerpt says below, “whether it’s social or professional, the road to success is paved with talk.” And how true is that when it comes to our witnessing and winning?!

Worth improving your conversation? Definitely!


Even though talking is something we do every day, there are lots of situations where it can be difficult and where we could do it better. The road to success, whether it’s social or professional, is paved with talk. If you’re not confident as a talker, the road can be bumpy.

As much as I enjoy talking, I know why people can be uncomfortable with it. As Thomas Jefferson once put it, “It is better to remain silent and be presumed a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” When you’re talking to a stranger or to a lot of other people at once, the fear is magnified.

One thing I’ve learned is that you can talk to anyone, if you have the right attitude.

After reading this you should know how to get your message across effectively in a professional setting. You’ll be talking better and enjoying it more.

The Basics of Good Conversation

The right attitude—the will to talk even when you might not be comfortable at first—is a basic ingredient for becoming a better talker.

Besides the willingness to work on it, you need at least two other ingredients to be a good conversationalist: a sincere interest in and respect for the other person and an openness to tell them about yourself.

You cannot talk to people successfully if they think you are not interested in what they have to say or you have no respect for them. Your listeners will always be able to tell whether you respect them. The remaining ingredient in my formula for success is an openness about yourself while you are talking to others. The golden rule—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you—applies to conversation, too. You should be as open and honest with your conversational partners as you’d want them to be with you.

This doesn’t mean you should talk about yourself all the time or divulge personal secrets [and certainly not the personal secrets of someone else]. At the same time, however, you should be willing to reveal the kind of information that you’d ask of another person.

Rules of Conversation

*Listen. My first rule of conversation is this: I never learn a thing while I’m talking. To be a good talker, you must be a good listener. This is more than just a matter of showing an interest in your conversation partner. Careful listening makes you better able to respond—to be a good talker when it’s your turn. Good follow-up questions are the mark of a good conversationalist.

*Avoid yes/no questions. “Yes/no” questions are the enemy of good talk. By their nature they produce answers of only one or two words. But, if you couch [questions] in more substantive terms that will generate an expanded answer, the conversation keeps on flowing.

*Eye contact. I’ve never gone out of my way to study body language, but there is one rule of body language that you must follow for successful conversation: Make eye contact. Maintaining good eye contact—not just at the beginning and end of your comments, but the whole time you are talking and listening—all go far toward making you a successful talker wherever you are, whatever the occasion might be, and whoever the other person is.

*Don’t stare. One further note on this subject: Although it’s important to make eye contact frequently as you talk, you don’t need to stare continuously in the other person’s eyes. Many people would find that uncomfortable, and you might, too. Maintain eye contact when your conversation partner is talking and when you are asking a question. If you’re speaking, you can take your eyes off your partner occasionally. However, don’t stare off into space as if no one were there. And if you’re at a party, don’t let your eyes wander over your partner’s shoulder as if you’re looking for someone more important to talk to.

Tip: Jesus: If you’re uncomfortable looking someone directly in the eyes for long periods of time, try focusing on the part of their face between the eyes and above the nose, and then looking into their eyes as often as you can. This “trick” will help you to feel more comfortable, and yet also ensure that your eyes aren’t wandering every which way.


*Try to be aware of current events. To be a successful conversationalist, you have to be ready to talk about what’s on people’s minds—and it may be the subject they just heard about on the radio and saw on the evening news. Today you have to relate what you’re talking about to the interests of the person you’re talking to, and they’re interested in plenty—because they’ve heard it on the radio and seen it in the morning paper. Today the key word in being successful in your social conversation is relevance.

*Know when to shut up. No matter how brilliant a talker you are, there are times when it’s better to remain silent. I know that human compulsion to be part of every conversation, but if, underneath that urge, you hear your instinct telling you to stay out of it, pay attention.

A few more tips on conversation etiquette

Jesus: Be patient, especially, with slow talkers who take longer to express themselves. It might be a temptation to finish their sentences for them, or to hurry the conversation along, but the polite and loving thing to do is just be patient and take the time needed to hear them out.

*If your conversation with someone is interrupted for some reason, when you resume your talk, it’s courteous to say something like, “You were telling me about….” or “Where were we?” Otherwise, people might think that you weren’t that interested in the conversation and maybe that you’re even happy for an excuse to go on to something else.

*Try, as much as possible, to pronounce people’s names correctly. This is important for those in or out of the Family. And if you are unsure of how to pronounce it, humbly ask, “I’m sorry, but how do you pronounce your name?”

*And, on the other side of the coin, if you know that you have a name that is often pronounced wrong, help the person you are getting to know by saying something like, “I know that my name’s a little bit unique, but it’s said like this…” That way you avoid the other person feeling embarrassed that they didn’t get it right.

*Don’t fidget with things when someone is talking to you. It makes it look like you’re not interested in the speaker.

8 Qualities of Successful Talkers

Most successful people are successful talkers. If you have developed the ability—and it can be developed—to talk well, you will be successful. I’ve noticed that the best conversationalists have eight things in common:

1) They look at things from a new angle, taking unexpected points of view on familiar subjects.

2) They have broad horizons. They think about, and talk about, a wide range of issues and experiences beyond their own daily lives.

3) They are enthusiastic, displaying a passion for what they’re doing with their lives and an interest in what you’re saying to them at that moment.

If you really do love what you’re doing and project that enthusiasm to the people you’re talking to, your chances for success become greater. Think of the things you are enthusiastic about: your kids, your hobbies, a charity you work with, even a book you’ve just read. Without making it into a hobbyhorse, draw on that enthusiasm in your conversation. If you can take a subject you’re passionate about and make your listener understand why, you’ll be an interesting talker.

4) They don’t talk about themselves all the time.

5) They are curious. They ask “Why?” They want to know more about what you’re telling them.

The best conversationalists are curious about everything. That’s why they are good at listening and why they have broad horizons—they’re always learning something new.

6) They empathize. They try to put themselves in your place, to relate to what you’re saying.

The people we most enjoy talking to are ones who show empathy for us—who make clear they relate to what we’re feeling as well as what we’re saying. When you tell someone you’ve got a new job, you’d like them to say “Wow! That’s great!” not just “Oh, really?” So do the same when you are the listener in a conversation.

7) They have a sense of humor. And they don’t mind using it on themselves. In fact, the best conversationalists frequently tell stories on themselves.

But humor, like anything else, doesn’t work if it’s forced. The best humorists and comics know this and don’t try too hard. Whatever your style of humor is, let it come into the conversation naturally.

8) They have their own style of talking. They have their own way of talking, and it makes them effective. Find the way of talking you’re comfortable with, and develop that.

Closing Thot

Openness, enthusiasm, and a willingness to listen will make you a welcomed conversationalist in any medium. And whether you’re talking to twelve people in a community center or giving a satellite teleconference, preparation, knowing your audience, and keeping it simple will always make you a successful speaker.

And lastly, always remember this: If you feel you’re not good at it, you can be. If you feel you are good at it, you can be better.

Sam Smith
Sam Smith is an independent Missionary, that has spent 7 years of his life in Africa, trying to spread Jesus' message of love in any way possible. He has been involved with non profit companies distributing educational material, youth counseling, IT education and humanitarian aid work in medical camps. He believes in Jesus in the simple way that the Bible speaks about, without going so far as to "belong" to a denomination, but just wants to do his best with likeminded people to make the world a better place.