Social conventions are always evolving and the modern conversation as interjections between multi-screen distractions is becoming more common. However we should not discount the classic art of conversation.
Attribution: Pixabay - Nemo
While older people complain about how younger people can't converse these days, I see the problem existing in all generations. If people would rather watch a cat video on their phone than talk to you, maybe you are the boring one. Learn these conversational arts and people will want to spend time with you talking.
Time: A good conversation can go on for hours.
Your conversation partner or partners
This can often be the hardest part. However the trick is to get the ball rolling. For example if someone says "How are you?" or "How have you been?" never simply reply "Good" or "Fine". This can kill the conversation there and then. Find something to throw into the conversation to really start it off.
: Attribution: Pixabay - Nemo
For example "I am tired as I have been working hard all week" or "I am great, we have a hiking trip planned on the weekend and the weather forecast says that the weather is going to improve". In both cases it is easy for them to follow up with questions or statements and the conversation starts to flow.
Remember, mention things that you want to talk about to keep the conversation going. For example I used to work with a person who was into ultimate Frisbee. He even brought up the topic that he was joining a new ultimate Frisbee team. When I followed this up with some questions about ultimate Frisbee his reply "I don't like talking about this topic, it is boring." killed the conversation there and then. Of course I respect that fact, but if it is so boring perhaps he shouldn't have mentioned it at all.
Introduce topics that everyone can talk about
Imagine you are with a group of people and someone mentions a TV show. Now most people I know are busy and it is rare these days that everyone watches the same TV show. So they start talking about the show and maybe 1 or 2 other people have also watched the show. Suddenly they are boring the rest of us with a conversation about a topic that we can't follow or contribute to.
Any conversation topic should try to include everyone in the conversation.
I was once teaching a class on web design where one of the students was deaf, but a proficient lip reader. During breaks the other students tended to, not exclude, but ignore her. You see being deaf, if she is not looking at you, she "hears" nothing. It means that we need to make an effort to be include her into our conversations.
Attribution: Pixabay - succo
It is not hard to bring anyone into the conversation. For this deaf student it was just a matter of asking her opinion, for other people it is about asking them what they think or have done. Of course not everyone is good at joining a conversation when brought in and this is another skill.
There is an exercise I like to do in communication skills classes where one person has to tell a story and the other person has to listen without saying anything. If you use the right body language and attitude you can get the other person to keep talking without you having to say anything. Though most people can't do this, they will just have to interject with their opinions.
Some people really can't listen. I was having a conversation with one other person, and when I made a contribution to the conversation, the person simply told me to shut up because she was trying to tell me a story. I let her finish her story and then found someone else to talk to.
Get into the rhythm of the conversation
I once worked with someone who would pause after sentences. This sounds normal but we are talking about really long pauses here. Pauses long enough for me to go off and make a cup of coffee and then maybe he would be ready to speak. However he would get upset when anyone tried to speak during his pauses, unless of course he was pausing for others to speak and he would get upset if you didn't reply right away.
Attribution: Pixabay - OpenClips
Conversations have natural rhythms, usually this is each person contributing something. When you end up in a conversation where one person just can't get the rhythm the other people become very uncomfortable.
Some other examples include a person who would start speaking in the middle of your sentence and then scream at you for interrupting him. Then there was a lady who barraged me with question after question. As I would pause politely after answering her questions so that she could have a chance to contribute naturally to the conversation, it just gave her an opportunity to hit me with more questions. I had to stop pausing to try and get the conversation into a better rhythm, but it was a very uncomfortable experience.
Learn how to tell jokes
It seems today that few of my friends know how to tell jokes anymore. This is not about a witty comeback or comment, but about telling a properly structured joke on a topic. However jokes can be great conversation fillers and great joke tellers are usually the life of the party.
Attribution: Pixabay - Nemo
The only way to learn jokes is to visit websites or buy books of jokes. Read and re-read them. When you are about to tell a joke, make sure you spend a few seconds making sure you know how it goes.
Don't be a bore (or be exciting)
Sometimes it is someone droning on about a topic, belligerently shutting other people off or just being negative about everything.
Attribution: Pixabay - geralt
Of course don't be one of those "Everything is awesome" people either, but try and be positive, listen to people's opinions and get involved in topics everyone likes.
Conversations often have a natural ending. Recognising that this is happening, or that someone is becoming a bore or belligerent is important. Then it is time to end or change the conversation.
Remember when a conversation ends at the right time on a positive note people will want to talk to you again.