Playing the Game of Conversation

Managing graceful small talk appears to be a difficult challenge for many of us.  Do take comfort in knowing that there are things to know and do that will  be of enormous help in dealing with small talk.

One such tip is the concept of ‘turn taking’ in conversation.  First let’s look at how this can go wrong:

  1. One person starts talking and never gives up the floor; a long story, a monologue ensues, requiring no interaction. This feels really good to the speaker and really boring to the listener.
  2. One person smiles and nods and asks more questions of the other (like the person above) but never really makes a contribution to the conversation. They are cheer-leaders, not players.

Two sides of the same coin, wouldn’t you say?

The solution: think of any conversation as having a format like ping-pong or tennis. There is a back-and-forthing to make a game actually happen.  You hog the ball, there is no action. And there is no fun if you let every shot go by without a return.


  • Always strive to pass the ball (topic) to the other person by asking a question
  • Avoid long stories
  • Understand that putting your two cents in is a conversational obligation
  • Treat other people attempts to converse with respect and encouragement

Back and forth it must go; it is an ”inter-action”.

Speak up, – but not too much!

If you want to learn more about how Dr. Fleming can help you improve your communication skills, please call her at telephone 415.391.9179 or send her an email at

Carol Fleming, Ph.D., is the author of “It’s the Way You Say It”! Becoming Articulate, Well-spoken and Clear. A comprehensive guide to vocal development and improvement of communication skills.

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