I just spent about a half an hour on the phone with my husband’s close friend Geoff from NYC. Sway and Geoff catch up every week and I hear tid bits of their life through the grapevine but today he called and got me on the phone. Geoff is the perfect example of a charismatic personality, a great conversationalist, and who brilliantly uses many of the skills I teach.

From the second I heard his voice he sounded so excited to talk with me. He started off by congratulating me on my recent TV tour and told me how happy he was for me. Then he launched into a conversation about a few specific things that I did on the air that he really liked. I was impressed he gave it such careful thought, not to mention that he took the time to explain it to me! This is what a person who endorses others does, they give their conversation partner specific thought. They don’t use flattery, they endorse.

Then Geoff asked me what the top 3 memories were from the road. I told him about almost being hit by a bus in Denver. At that point, he used empathy to the ninth degree when he imagined how I must have felt afterwards when I learned I could have been hit by the bus. When I told him about meeting and hanging out with Joe Thiesman, he mentioned that he saw him speak and how articulate, smart and bright he is. Then he said that “everyone was talking about me meeting Joe Thiesman” and I laughed. I knew that he was embellishing a bit when he said ‘everyone” because I knew it meant my husband and his wife, but STILL, it made me feel good. Geoff displayed how he made his audience, me, feel special. He didn’t just ask how WAS the trip overall, he asked for THREE specific stories. That is a great example of someone who is curious and cares versus someone just trying to pass the time making polite conversation.

Then Geoff shared a story about his 11 year old niece who is a competitive swimmer. He said, “Mary, this is a new connection you and I have” when he told me why he was telling me about her. He explained how he shared with her how to psych out her competitors before she gets on the blocks to compete. He outlined what a swimmer with attitude should look like: they don’t look at anyone else. They look at the water and the electric timer. They shake their arms, whirl them around to stretch out, and they give a little shake to their legs. We both had a laugh over this because we both know the “mental game” that superior athletes use on their competitors. Geoff told me that story because he knows that I swim competitively and that I’d enjoy that he is now getting into the sport. Again, he brought up conversation that would be relavant to me.

Then I asked about him, the baby, his wife, and what we were all going to do this summer together! He went into a great description of his wives’ company and how well she is doing and how she’s getting recruited right and left. He showed his enthusiasm for his wife and how proud he is of her. He admitted helping her on occasion but gave her so much credit for working so much and so hard and doing so well. I liked this about him talking so well about his wife. She truly is a very special lady so it’s easy to talk well about her, but it is such an admirable quality when a husband talks so positively about his mate.

He then shared about his job and career and explained in detail what he does. I have to admit, I didn’t understand everything he does, but he made it so incredibly interesting. He also made references to how he networked and connected a lot of people in his industry whether or not he’d profit from it, and then he’d add, “in the Mary Gardner way”. (As if I had anything to do with his superior networking skills!) I was thinking in the middle of the conversation “I’ve never known that making and distributing LABELS could be so much FUN” . Geoff’s passion for his job would make ANYONE buy labels from him. His voice was filled with energy and enthusiasm for the people he knows and for his industry. He’s just so engaged with everything he does in life. He also had an unusual and uncanny way of weaving ME, his audience, in to his story! Brilliant! He’s absolutely magnetic!

To finish the conversation we made a plan to get together over the summer. We brainstormed together on what, where and when.

Then he said how great it was to catch up and asked if his “good buddy” was there to chat for a moment. I passed the phone over to my husband and when I got off, I noticed how good I felt about him, and about our conversation. I had just had an incredibly exciting conversation and we didn’t even talk about anything other than the mundane details of life.

THAT is the secret of a brilliant conversationalist! He showed enthusiasm for me, for what I was doing, he gave specific thought to what I did well and he congratulated me. When he talked about others, he was uplifting and positive and didn’t criticize. He brought up the good points, while even sharing the problem areas, he sounded realistic. He wasn’t a Pollyanna type.

It was very much a SHARED conversation and one that was entertaining. He’s colorful, and uses great vocal variety and excitement to keep his listener engaged. He asked great questions and he gave excellent feedback.

Now, if I could just bottle Geoff and his personality… we’d be in business! Oh, wait, I already AM in business, and these are exactly some of the skills I teach to my students and/or clients.

Great conversation skills are teachable. They are learnable. And they are a necessity if you want to be noticed in our fast paced world. All is takes is a little practice, and the willingness to make the mundane, a whole lot of fun!

Hi Mary——just finished reading your blog—couldn,t help but think of how much it reminded me of listening to Joel Osteen last night. He talked about giving people compliments, only he called it “making deposits”, and then such a time may come up and we might need input or favor from some of these people we have been making deposits with, and they are pretty willing to hear you out. His point was not to use people but to get in the habit of living that way. It was/is pretty refreshing. In other words we are are always to building people up. He gave examples of how to do it with our children. Start off by telling them how good they are at “such and “such” –then telling them “now here is an area that still needs a little attention” etcetc..It all sounded so great. What a gift-and to be sincere too, not so over the top that it sounds phony.

Remember, It takes two people to dance the conversational tango.
A little backdrop on the topic: For those who believe charismatic conversationalists are born are missing the mark. Babies would learn to bark if dogs brought them up. It’s a learned skill and even those with severe learning disabilities, such as my dyslexia, can build the necessary conversational skills to enjoy social interactions. A mix of emotional intelligence, basic skill sets and practice can have anyone improving their conversational engagements, while getting more out of their relationships.