It seems that success is embedded in a host of communication skills, spanning the verbal and the nonverbal. But if you had to pinpoint one skill at the heart of personal and professional success, which should you focus on? According to professor of psychology Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., the art of natural, flowing conversation should not be dismissed.
She's referring to the ability to traverse awkward pauses and accidental interruptions with ease, making your conversation partner feel comfortable no matter what the situation. "Everyone's experienced those awkward social moments when there's an overly long pause in the conversation or you've inadvertently interrupted the other person," she writes for Psychology Today. "According to University of Groningen's Namkje Koudenburg and colleagues, these conversational hiccups, all too common, can have serious consequences," especially when it comes to something like a job interview or a date.
"Clearly, you'd be more likely to hire a job applicant or go out on a date with someone when you find the conversation to be easy and natural," she adds. "You'll reject a prospective applicant or social partner if you don't feel connected because something about the conversation seems off." While this may seem like common sense to many, our digital landscape makes the natural ability to converse that much more important, since body language cues are often not a part of the equation.
The easiest way to establish conversational flow? Let the other person talk, and don't attempt to interrupt or finish their thoughts. Both pauses and interruptions take a toll on the "flow" of the conversation, which in turn "influences everything from feelings that people in a conversation have about each other to the overall sense of identity within a larger group."