Conversation is hard, but conversation is easy.

Language is thrust upon us from the moment we come tearing out of our mothers, and follows us until we die. So it would seem that talking, discourse, conversation, should be as easy as breathing. In some cases it is. In some cases it isn’t. But few people actually know how to converse well. 

It’s not an unforgivable trait — it’s quite normal, actually, almost expected, especially the closer you teeter to or from adolescence. There’s a reason why they call it the art of conversation, and that reason is because it’s a discipline just like painting, singing or boxing  — requiring hard work, dedication, and of course, practice.

There are many unwritten rules: social codes or etiquette quietly un-detailing what to say or not and when or when not. But all rules can be simplified, explored, questioned, criticised. 

One of the most comprehensive ways I can explain how to be a good conversationalist is to pleasantly surprise people. 

That’s it. That’s all. Boom. You’re an instant charismatic. Just oozing it. Suddenly people want to get to know you, and conversation becomes effortless. 

Sounds good, right? Well, how do you pleasantly surprise someone? It’s not always in the ways you might be thinking: the exchanging of gifts or becoming subservient to your interlocutor. The answer rests firmly in your authentic sense of self, and the solid sureness you have about your place on this Earth.

If you’re unsure, then become ununsure. Try destinies on for size. Throw away what doesn’t fit, or just pack it away for later. Then, you’re ready to start surprising people. Pleasantly. 

One way to do it is through your unique perspective on the world. Say what you see. Say what you see you don’t see. Put in funny orders words. Give really specific, genuine compliments. That word in there — genuine — is key. Never lie, embellish or fake your own opinion or worldview. There is something innately recognisable about someone whose actions don’t match their words, or whose words don’t match their face. That’s why you need to be sure of yourself before you go out trying to work the crowd. People can smell an absence of integrity from all the way across a room. So be integral.

The more authentic you are, the more you will surprise people. Take all the messed up, idiosyncratic, synesthetic, obsessive-compulsive, undignified thoughts in your head and give them a voice. Say what others might have never thought about before — give them a new perspective. Surprise them.

When you converse with people, you have to be willing to demonstrate some type of vulnerability. Not necessarily in a way that makes you appear lesser or weak, but in a way that makes your partner feel like they are being ‘let in’. So let your guard down. Admit something. Confide in people, confess something silly. If you’re embarrassed to tell someone something, let them know you’re feeling that way. Playing it cool never works, because cool people don’t have to try to be cool — they just are. So be who you are, no matter what that is: the coolness will come later. 

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