Although reading has many obvious benefits, do you realize it can help you sharpen your conversational skills, too? If you feel anxious about attending a party or social gathering where you don’t know anyone, reading can bring you greater confidence.

“The only reason why we ask other people how their weekend was is so we can tell them about our own weekend.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters: A Novel

You can impress people with your ability to carry on an interesting conversation because exposing yourself to new information through reading provides you with a plethora of subjects to talk about.

Try these strategies for using reading to improve your conversational skills:

1. Scan the headlines. When reading your morning newspaper, look over the headlines and titles first.

• Whether you get the paper delivered to your house or read the local news online, look over all the article headings. Upon finding a subject that appeals to you, read the article. What do you think about it? Is there anything the article left out? Do you trust the reporting?

• If you believe a topic is interesting and have more questions about it, chances are good that others will, too.

2. Read articles and books that interest you. If you already find the subject matter fascinating, you’ll be more likely to remember it once you read it. It just makes good sense to hone in on information or stories that you find fascinating to share in conversations.

3. Take note of topics that are currently trending. Popular and current subjects give you a good idea of what people are talking about. If you read those types of news articles, you’ll definitely have something of interest to share with others.

• Plus, trending topics are constantly updated, so expect to learn a little more each day over the life of a trend. If one topic in particular has been covered repeatedly in the news lately, you’ve discovered a subject that others will probably enjoy discussing.

4. Read a variety of material. A great way to start a verbal exchange with someone is to mention a book you’ve read lately. Books from the top 10 lists of bookstores and publishers make great fodder for conversation, regardless of whether they’re fiction or non-fiction.

5. Formulate an opinion. Know your own feelings and ideas regarding a particular subject you read about. Although it’s helpful to be able to describe facts from an article, you’ll have an even richer conversation if you add in your thoughts, ideas and experiences related to the subject matter.

6. Inject topics you read about into your conversations. Use the subjects you read about recently to start a verbal exchange. For example, let’s say it’s Saturday night and you just arrived at a friend’s party. You’re looking around and notice you don’t see many familiar faces. You feel a niggling sense of nervousness while wondering what you’ll say to the other partygoers.

• But then, you recall that story you read in the newspaper this morning about the new museum your city is going to build. Most people that live in your town will want to know about that.

7. Sit back and listen to others. Pay attention to conversations going on around you. Someone might mention a subject you just read about.

• Ask people what they think about a particular story or character in the book.

• Others will contribute thoughts, ideas and reactions to the subject matter that differ greatly from your own. An important part of conversing is listening and allowing reciprocation by the other person.

Reading is an effective method of gathering and storing information to talk about at the next social gathering you attend. A person who is well-read can be great entertainment at get-togethers and provide plenty of grist for some titillating conversations.

“I figured I could get a job at a filling station somewhere, putting gas and oil in people’s cars. I didn’t care what kind of job it was, though. Just so people didn’t know me and I didn’t know anybody. I thought what I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes. That way I wouldn’t have to have any goddam stupid useless conversations with anybody. If anybody wanted to tell me something, they’d have to write it on a piece of paper and shove it over to me. They’d get bored as hell doing that after a while, and then I’d be through with having conversations for the rest of my life. Everybody’d think I was just a poor deaf-mute bastard and they’d leave me alone.” ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Although reading is wonderful all on its own, using it to easily strengthen your conversational skills brings you even more rewards.

Photo: Garry Knight

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