What do you know about CONVERSATIONAL COMPETENCY? Probably more than you think. Pretty much everyone can tell you about someone they’d avoid talking with if they could. Most likely that judgement comes from an annoying conversational trait.
Ever talk to someone who talks too much and you can’t get a word in? That’s the “monopolizer” with poor turn taking skill.
Ever talk to someone who is difficult to follow in a conversation because there’s too much or not enough detail? That’s poor audience awareness.
How about the person who doesn’t help hold up the conversation? Maybe it’s limited ability to maintain a topic.
The list of weak conversational traits goes on and on. Some of them could be considered “style”. BUT, when the unwritten social rules of conversation are broken some patterns cross the line into actual impairment.
Speech-Language Pathologists spend a lot of time analyzing and developing conversational skills in children. In fact, the abilities necessary for conversation make up a large part of what’s known as the PRAGMATICS of Language. It’s about how we use language in different situations and for different purposes.
People who have poor pragmatic skills (children or adults) often come across as socially awkward or a bit “off” the norm. There are many reasons a child may have difficulty learning the boundaries of conversational rules. In some situations direct teaching and practice in controlled situations are enough to help those skills develop.
People learn their conversational style or skill set from their family of origin.
Things such as size of the family, cultural background, speaker traits of either parent and birth order all influence how we participate in conversations within the family and later outside of the family.
Some people are particularly strong conversationalists, you know….the ones who could sell “ice to an Eskimo” as the expression goes. The charismatic “smooth talkers” (English sure has a lot of expressions!) with just the right balance of humor, vocal inflection and interesting or at least entertaining content.
Some people actually train hard to become strong public speakers, others have a natural knack for it. Regardless, conversational competency is usually an appealing trait to possess, whether you are consciously aware of the actual skills or not.
Future blog posts are going to follow this theme of conversational skills to further explore the actual skills necessary to be considered conversationally “competent”. Hope you join us for the ride!
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