I would like to ask some help on how to be a good conversationalist.  You see, I have a problem when it comes to communicating with people.  I'm quite a boring type of person and I cannot produce an interesting conversation.  Can you help me on this?  I also need advice on how to know a person better.

Start by Listening

The greatest mistake people make is thinking they have to say something interesting to make good conversation. The best conversations take place when one person is willing to listen to what another person says. "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19). Obviously, in a conversation, only one person can truly speak at a time. Thus, time must be given to the other person to say what they want to say. Everything must be done at its proper time: "A time to keep silence, and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:7).

When you allow the other person to speak, you are showing him respect. Giving him a willing ear to receive his words means you think that what he might say is important to you. "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another" (Romans 12:10).

But so few people really listen. Most only listen for things that they want to hear. Someone pointed this out to me and I've proven to myself that it is true. At times people will greet me, "How are you doing?" Did you know you can say almost anything in a pleasant tone and many people won't notice? If I had a bad day, I might pleasantly say, "Miserable," and the person will go on as if I said I was fine. The disciples illustrate this selective hearing as well. "For He taught His disciples and said to them, "The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day." But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him" (Mark 9:31-32). Jesus' words were very clear, but the disciples could not grasp what he was saying because the words were not what they expected nor were they what they wanted to hear. Many years ago as I was paying for a meal at a restaurant, the cashier asked how was the food, so I politely told her that it was one of the worse Mexican dish I had ever eaten (it was completely without any spice or flavoring). At first she smile and continued to process my payment. Then it dawned on her what I said. Despite asking me to repeat it several times, she couldn't believe it was true -- she just knew I had to be joking. But I wasn't and I have never gone back.

You'll see this as well in many people's attempts at conversations. They will listen up to the point when a person says something that they disagree with or dislike. It doesn't matter what is said thereafter, they only remember what they last heard that they didn't like. Such happened to Paul, "Then He said to me, 'Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.' And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!"" (Acts 22:21-22).

Your Attitude Matters

Who enjoys talking to a person whose outlook on life is gloomy? "A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones" (Proverbs 17:22). People tend to avoid things that make them uncomfortable and head to things that make them feel better. When you show a cheerful attitude, people will want to talk to you, if for no other reason than a hope that some of your cheerfulness will rub off on them.

"Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad" (Proverbs 12:25). So, say things to others that make them feel better. "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32). People need to see that things as not as bad as it might seem to them.

But most important, as you talk with someone, show them that you are interested in what they are saying. "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15; see also Galatians 6:2). Don't be a passive listener where the person you are talking to wonders if your ears are working. Ask questions about what they said, show sympathy for what they are saying. Can you imagine someone telling another person a sad story and the "listener" is grinning from ear to ear? They will rightly get upset because it is obvious the other person isn't listening. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3-4). Even if it is nothing more than eye contact, at least it tells the other person you are paying attention.

Consider Your Words

People panic when there is a lull in conversation. We feel that every quiet moment must be filled with something, so we blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, whether it is appropriate for the conversation or not. "A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul" (Proverbs 18:7). Often we are better off saying nothing than to say too much. The more a person says, the more opportunities he has to say something wrong. The less he says, the more other people assumes he knows. "He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive" (Proverbs 17:27-28).

When we do speak, we don't want to erase the gains our silence has made. We should consider carefully not only what we will say, but also how we will word what we want to say. "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one" (Colossians 4:6). Different people need to be addressed in different ways. You don't address the leader of a country the same way you speak to you best friend down the road. "The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious, but the lips of a fool shall swallow him up" (Ecclesiastes 10:12).

"The wise in heart will be called prudent, and sweetness of the lips increases learning. Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it. But the correction of fools is folly. The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips. Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones" (Proverbs 16:21-24). If you want someone to pay attention to what you say, you need to word your message in a way that is pleasant to hear. Even rebukes can be presented in a strong, but pleasant, fashion. Consider a person with sin in his life. You could tell him that he is going to hell if he doesn't repent, which is quite true. Or you can say, "I'm concerned about your soul. This sin of yours is destroying you. Will you not change so you can avoid hell?" Now there are going to be times when a harsh statement is called for, if for nothing else, to jolt a person out of his complacency. But harsh words are not always needed in every situation. "And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh" (Jude 22-23).

We need to say things that help other people. "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29). That means you must pay attention to what a person says and what he knows so that you can say some small thing which will let him leave knowing he is a better person for having talked to you. "The lips of the wise disperse knowledge, but the heart of the fool does not do so" (Proverbs 15:7). "The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of wisdom" (Proverbs 10:21).

Controlling the tongue is hard. "For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body" (James 3:2). But when you exercise control over you mouth, you will find people enjoying the moments they have talking to you.

See also:

Questions and Answers regarding the Christian Lifestyle
Questions and Answers regarding Friends