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The balanced conversation


Techniques > Conversation techniques > The balanced conversation

Take your turn | Listen and respond | See also


A balanced conversation is between two people who share the time and topics in roughly equal parts, enjoying the interplay with the other person.

This is the realm of the true conversationalist.

Take your turn

A good conversation is a balanced act of turn taking. This means that you should take your turn to speak as a natural right and also respect the other person's right to speak and be heard.

Limited content

Make your point within your turn, but do not over-do it. Rather than trying to say too much at once, constrain each turn that you have to a single topic or otherwise something that does not confuse or drown the other person in your words.

Limited duration

Do not hog the conversation. Say what you have to say then pass the baton back. People can only absorb so much at once and if you talk too much, they will remember less and less. If you say less, they will remember more.

Watch the other person when you are talking (people often do not do this as they drift off into their private world). Notice if they are really listening. If they are not, then wonder: why am I talking?

Offer back the baton

When you have had your say and made your point, offer them back the baton. Pause, to see if they are pick it up. If they do not, try asking them what they think or another question.

Listen and respond

When they are talking, if you listen you can respond.

Hear what they are saying

If you listen carefully, you can not only hear the words but also the real meaning that they are trying to convey (and maybe even something of who they are).

If you are not sure about something, ask for more information or test your understanding. This is usually appreciated as it shows interest in the other person.

Find the optimal point of interjection

When you feel you have received enough information and want to respond, look for a suitable point at which you can interject.

You can also signal your desire to speak, for example by leaning forwards or pursing your lips as if you are about to speak. Raising eyebrows also helps, as does moving your hands as if you are about to use them in support of speech.

Respond to their point

If they have made a point, rather than dive off into what you want to say, respond to what they have said, supporting or challenging it as appropriate.

At some time you may want to initiate a new topic. Do not break into this when the other person is in the middle of something important to them. Carefully close the current conversation before starting up a new subject for discussion.

See also


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