There is a conversation trick that some people use – one which has become too obvious to fool anyone. The trouble with this trick is that those who use it have fallen into a habit which they find hard to break.

You have three or more people in a room, having a conversation. Chances are one of them is struggling to stay interesting or appear intelligent. A popular trick used by some people is to ask questions – but not just any questions – questions with obvious answers.

Here’s an example: I was in an office with two other guys and a fourth gentleman walked in. At the time that he walked in, Melvin from Big Brother fame was on TV.

“Is this Melvin?” says the late comer. Somebody responds that it is Melvin.

“Melvin from Big Brother?” says the late comer. And out of the reflex to answer a question, somebody replies that it is.

Have you ever experienced this? I hope that question is not too obvious. This dumb question pattern is often used by people who are intelligent enough to know the answers to their questions. So it’s probably not a matter of that person’s intelligence. They may just be insecure about their conversational skills.

Well, here’s a conversation trick that nearly anyone could adopt if they feel insecure:

Be quiet.

Seriously. Some of us don’t realise that the best people to have a conversation with are people who are good listeners. You can speak when you have a valid point but much of the conversation can be carried by listening and responding, “okay”, “ah”, “wow”, “I see”. You don’t mean it (yeah, that’s another one).

Anybody can open their mouth and talk but it’s usually best when you have something to say. That’s probably why the best radio presenters aren’t always the most talkative people. And some talkative people aren’t too great to listen to on the radio.

As the saying goes, now that you’ve learned how to talk, it’s time to learn how to shut up. Or at least learn not to ask questions that suggest imply that you’re stoopid.

Go ahead, ask if I misspelled that word on purpose.


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