Three Tips to Become a Better Conversationalist (& Not Look Like a Narcissist With No Self-Awareness)

how to be better at conversation

Hi, friends. In today’s post, I’ll share a few ways that you can be a better conversationalist at work, with friends, at social functions, or anywhere people exchange words.

Do you want to know how to make a good first impression? Do you want to facilitate conversations that go deeper than the surface level? Do you want to NOT be someone people dread talking to? This post lists and explains three methods for doing so. 😉

Active listening

We can and do often use body language to convey our level of interest. Do you feel put off when someone looks at their phone while you talk to them? They’re illustrating through their body language that they aren’t tuned into the conversation.

Good active listening involves eye contact first and foremost. The other person knows you care about what they’re saying if you meet their gaze rather than looking at the floor, your phone, etc. [Bonus: meeting eye contact also makes you seem more confident.] Great active listening means meeting the other person’s gaze and also nodding and saying words here and there like “mhmm,” “yes,” “wow,” “really?” etc. These small gestures show you are invested in the conversation. Excellent active listening involves all the above + repeating back things they’ve said in a condensed form in your own words. Doing so displays that you not only listened but genuinely understood.

Here’s a definition of true listening that I like: “True listening is suspending one’s own agenda.” How often do we appear to be listening to someone, but in our heads, we are contemplating our own thoughts and what we will say next? Guilty! But I’ve found it almost impossible to practice active listening without truly listening, so if you deliberately implement these tips, you can more easily suspend your own agenda.

Ask people about themselves

My dad once imparted some words of wisdom to me–asking other people about themselves makes you seem more intelligent. Here’s my personal observation: doing so demonstrates a higher level of self-awareness than the average person, and self-awareness often coincides with intelligence level. It’s possible to be smart and have no self-awareness (like the good ol’ saying, “They’re book-smart, but they have no common sense.”), but I don’t know that it’s possible to have a high level of self-awareness and NOT be decently sharp.

Expressing interest in other people’s lives shows that, unlike many people, you know that the world does not revolve around you. You have the self-awareness to recognize that you and your life are not the most exciting, interesting things in the world. Spelling this out seems silly, but many people do believe that–on a subconscious level–which is why they always talk about themselves and ponder what they will say next instead of truly listening. Even worse is when a person includes many insignificant and tedious details in a story; to me, this habit reveals that a person has little to no self-awareness.

To be fair, some people are shy, while some people really do have wild lives with many crazy stories to share. Still, my tip stands true: asking others about themselves will make you a better conversationalist. The other person will see that you care about them, their job, their opinion on something, whatever the case may be. And don’t just ask one surface-level question about the other person and immediately revert to talking about yourself again. Ask them a question, then ask the next question based off their answer; they’ll know you were really listening.

Don’t try to “empathize”

This trap is easy to fall into. Many people attempt to “empathize” with someone by turning the conversation back to themselves.

This idea represents a gray area. Empathizing may me fitting in certain scenarios, such as people sitting around exchanging funny stories at a social gathering or someone seeking your advice with a situation…but all too often, people’s attempts to “empathize” are just a way to get back to their favorite subject (themselves!).

Though this is better judged on a case-by-case basis, I think a helpful distinction to make is “serious” vs. “light-hearted.” If someone is venting about a situation or talking about something serious, let them have the floor. If someone is telling a light-hearted story, it’s probably fine to chime in with your own light-hearted story. Whatever the circumstance, at least let them finish their story and soak up the spotlight for a little while before you jump in and dominate the conversation. [No one likes to feel cut short!]

I’m sure I’ve excluded some other great tips, but three is a satisfying number, and this post is getting long. In summary: to facilitate better conversations, try actively listening and encouraging the other person to talk about themselves. Also, be mindful of when it might or might not be appropriate to “empathize.” You’ll seem more intelligent, confident, and thoughtful.

Thanks for reading! What’s your two cents? Have you ever talked to or known a person who broke all these rules (and did it drive you mad)? Let me know in the comments.


24 responses to “Three Tips to Become a Better Conversationalist (& Not Look Like a Narcissist With No Self-Awareness)”

  1. Great post and excellent tips Lily. I have found that active listening and demonstrating interest in the person I’m talking to makes a tremendous difference in the level of trust and depth of our conversation. Empathy can be a slippery slope. I try to empathize and show that I care, but tread carefully when sharing my own experiences that may mirror their situation. Certainly, I avoid approaching it from a position of superiority—i.e., “this is what I did, or what you should do.” Enjoyed reading this post. Keep up the good blogging.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Rainer! I imagine you implement these tips, consciously or subconsciously, in your ministry so people can open up to you and feel *seen*. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a narcissist with no self-awareness, I appreciate the reminders! 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Hehe, we are all at least a little narcissistic! We just have to try to get our selfish urges under control. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed reading this Lily. Especially the 3rd point

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for dropping by, Efua!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Don’t empathize! I never knew that one :-O Socializing doesn’t come naturally to me, so these tips do help. I would have never guessed that one, but it does make sense that it can come across as changing the topic back to oneself. Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Depends on the situation whether empathizing is good or bad, but when people are venting, they just want someone to listen, so it is often better to be a listening ear! I have to try hard to be a good listener because, a lot of times, I want to help them solve their problem quickly instead of letting them get out all their frustration!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Empathy is important but it is how we express it that can run into problems. I can have empathy and be a sympathetic ear and when I am at home pray for the person. I think making the conversation about one’s self is not true empathy

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Interesting. But what if the person you are talking to just doesn’t have much to say. You try to drag a conversation out of them but they usually turn it back to you? You know I am a talker but I do like to hear from the other person as well. Thanks Lily, We have missed church but the weather now is too cold for Roy to be out unless we have a Doctors appointment. Take care and Pray the weather warms up some for us.. Deb

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You make a good point that some people are just shy, Deb. We just need to make sure we are interested in their lives, so if they don’t want to talk, it’s on them if they don’t take an opportunity to share about themselves. We have missed you at church and will pray for you. Love you.


  6. I loved your post! If you have more conversational tips to share, please do! Maybe unique intro questions when you first meet someone? I’m starting to feel deja vu when I say or hear “How are you,” “Any plans for the weekend,” and so on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Daphne, and that’s actually a great point! It’s funny that we say “How are you?” but we don’t really care usually.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. *I totally will answer truthfully, but tread lightly on details. I know people say it’s just a greeting not to be taken seriously, but I’ve never liked that.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m sorry I LOVE that title! Lol! I can’t help but crack up! Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As with Mr. McGee – guilty to the nth degree. Will hopefully put these into practice starting today. Thanks Lily. 😁

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL, I’m glad you liked it, David! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. These are really helpful tips, Lily!! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I abide by all of these. And so does my husband, and all my favorite friends. It’s simple common sense. When I come across self-centered people who don’t follow these courtesy “rules” I avoid them. As human beings it’s normal to want to be treated as a person, not a number or a sounding board. A person who always talks about him or herself (and trying to one-up you) is like fingernails scratching a blackboard.


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