You’re at a dinner party totally captivated by the hostess/host’s sister/wild card guest. Why? No matter what topic comes up, they always have something thoughtful to contribute, but not just that: Whenever you have something to add, they make you feel like you’re the most important (and entertaining) person in the room. Here, their tricks of the conversation trade.

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two women talking at a bar

They Know Exactly What Story Details to Include

It’s the thing that derails a scintillating conversation the fastest: Verbal clutter. Good conversationalists are actually editors at heart—they know how to trim the fat and only include the details that are most pertinent to getting the point of the story across. In other words, they don’t get bogged down with nitty-gritty specifics, like dates or names. Because think about it: When someone pauses a story to say, “Wait, was it Saturday or Sunday? No, it was Friday,” they’ve already lost you.

two women walking and talking

They Don’t Always Interrupt with Their Own Experiences

You’re trying to sympathize or find common ground. We get it. Still, piping in with a similar tale when someone is lamenting a work project gone awry, a breakup or childcare issue can inadvertently shift the focus away from organic conversation and into a competitive game of table tennis.

women great conversationalists
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They Listen More Than They Talk

It’s 2019. Distractions—your cell phone, your to-do list, a cute puppy on the sidewalk that you just have to Instagram—abound. Still, a good conversationalist keeps their attention focused. They make eye contact. They ask questions. Is it an exercise in mindfulness? Yes. Does it create a more meaningful back-and-forth? Absolutely.

two women chatting

They’re Not Afraid to Admit to What They Don’t Know

We’ve all been there where someone is mid-sentence and a term suddenly crops up that you have never heard. People who are skilled at conversation know that it’s A-OK to let them finish their thought and then ask them to go back and further explain. If you don’t, the conversation is off and running and you’re listening…but totally lost. (Cue the Homer Simpson zone out.) In addition, asking for more detail or an additional explanation reads as a compliment: You must really be paying attention if you’re asking to hear more.

woman reading newspaper

They’re Well-Read

Finding common ground starts with keeping up with current events. No, that doesn’t have to mean politics or the worsening Ebola crisis (although that counts). On the contrary, it can mean keeping up with whatever you’re passionate about—a cool blog about motherhood, following smart celebs on Twitter (we’re talking to you, @MindyKaling) or simply devouring an addictive podcast (hello, The Dropout) on your commute. The bottom line: You come to the table with something to contribute. The best conversationalists keep things interesting by seeding the back-and-forth with new ideas to discuss.

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