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Image Making by Victoria Seitz PhD

The Art of Great Conversation

*A monthly column devoted to helping women and men be their best and most confident in any situation. Topics include dress, body language, attitude and etiquette

Victoria Seitz, PhD
Image Expert

Learning to be a great conversationalist is relatively easy if you become equipped with the right ammunition. Also being able to carry on a good conversation will enhance your networking skills and build enduring client relationships.

There are those today who are wallflowers who are frozen stiff when it comes to conversing with others and then they are those that can only talk about themselves - boring!!!!

Here are some tips that will help you in making positive impressions with others and enhance your success.

1. Remember that conversation is a process of give and take. Each person takes time to talk and to LISTEN.
2. Don't PRETEND to know everything. Talk from your experience and if you don't know what the other person is talking about this is your opportunity to ask questions and learn something new.
3. THINK before you speak. Take time to put your thoughts together rather than blurt something out.
4. Be a good listener. As opposed to what some think, his is an active state. To enhance your listening skills, try repeating everything that the other person is saying, verbatim, in your head. Also, ask questions or summarize what the other person is saying, give eye contact and be sure that your body posture is turned towards them to let them know that you're truly listening.
5. Be aware of the world around you. Check out the news so you have something to talk about other than "shop talk".
6. Include everyone in the conversation rather than one or two in the group.
7. Don't meddle in gossip. Is just gives someone else the green light to gossip about you and gossip is harmful.
8. Avoid vulgarity. Whether you are male or female is shows a lack of vocabulary and is offensive to others.
9. Give and receive complements gracefully. A simple "thank you" does the trick. Don't tell them that you only paid $59.99 for it at Loehmans. Also if you are going to give a complement, be sincere or don't make one at all.
10. Be interested in what other people do for a living, about their good news and good fortune. You would appreciate the same in return. Moreover, you don't know what will happen down the rode professionally, you may end up in their profession and they would make a great contact for you. So ask questions without interrogating them.
11. Avoid talking about your health, your recent nose job, other people's health, their weight, a impending divorce, custody battle or lawsuit, sexual preference, therapy, sex life, personal misfortunes, or age. Also, to be on the safe side, particularly if you don't know where people stand, stay away from sensitive issues such as religion, politics and abortion.
12. When someone starts talking about their problems be a good listener but don't offer advice. If someone does ask for your advice, sharing a similar experience you've had is the best route to go.
13. Be sensitive to filler words like "you know" (no I don't know - please tell me), "um" and "like a".
14. Avoid pointing the conversation constantly in your direction. I, I, I, conversations are boring and send people away.
15. If the conversation is going well don't change the subject. If there is a lag in the conversation after a statement just say "Well, that was a conversation starter!"
16. Don't ask how much things cost (you can find out yourself), if that is a real diamond they're wearing, or is that a hairpiece (please!)
17. Stuck for topics? - consider mentioning something nice about the event that you're at, talk about new developments in science, with your boss - news about the competition is always a plus in your direction, gardening, best selling books that you've read, or the arts.
18. If at a dinner party drum up a conversation with the person seated next you by mentioning something nice about the evening rather than the hair in your salad, and lastly,
19. Avoid off-colored jokes but do have a sense of humor. Life is too important to be taken seriously!

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Victoria Seitz, PhD is a professor of Marketing at California State University, San Bernardino and is author of Your Executive Image, AdamsMedia, Inc, 2000 and Power Dressing, DonJon Publishing, 1991. In addition to teaching, Dr. Seitz was a fashion coordinator for Burdines, Florida and in retail management for Saks Fifth Avenue, Phoenix, AZ. Clients of Dr. Seitz have included Abbott Laboratories, Northern Telecom, Texas Instruments, Yellow Freight Systems, Sally Beauty Company, the United States Armed Forces, Travellife magazine, YWCA and Accountants Overload, in addition to law firms, hotels, newspapers, universities, banks, credit unions, national and local community and professional organizations nationwide.

To learn more about Dr. Seitz please visit her website at

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