The Best Ways to Develop Your Conversational Intelligence

The Best Ways to Develop Your Conversational Intelligence

At a time when there are countless ways to exchange information, having an actual conversation with another person—whether they’re a colleague, a family member, or someone you encounter socially—may be the most powerful. That’s because conversations are about more than what is said: They also affect how we navigate a variety of different relationships in our life—and it takes conversational intelligence to do that successfully. Here’s what to know.

What is conversational intelligence?

Conversational intelligence is built on the idea that beyond simply being a way to exchange information with another person, conversations can impact everything from relationships, to your self-confidence, to your outlook on life, in both positive and negative ways.

According to Judith E. Glaser, the late organizational anthropologist who coined the term, conversations determine the quality of relationships, which collectively determine the quality of the culture of a company or other type of organization.

How to develop conversational intelligence

While Glaser viewed conversational intelligence as something humans are hardwired to have, that doesn’t mean everyone is able to apply the skill at the same level. Here are a few ways you can develop your conversational intelligence:

Think of conversations as rituals

We may fall into habitual patterns when it comes to conversing with others, Glaser explained, but if your usual conversations aren’t working, she suggested thinking of them as rituals: Something that we all have the ability to learn.

Choose your words carefully

The words and phrases used in conversations are rarely neutral. In fact, they may carry emotional baggage for some people. For this reason, Glaser encouraged people to approach their word choices with sensitivity in order to help them build trust with others during a conversation—especially since words can have the opposite effect as well.

Reflect on the conversation

When a conversation is over, rather than immediately turn your attention to something else, take a moment to reflect on the experience. Think about what happened during the conversation—what was said, the person’s tone and body language, and auditory signals, like periods of silence—and consider the potential impact.

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