A conversation is defined as a talk between two or more people that are usually informal. Conversation skills, then, are skills we need to communicate effectively with others. In contrast to written communication skills, conversation skills focus on our ability to communicate verbally.
These skills consist of being able to listen and understand what the other person in the conversation is saying, as well as the ability to convey information and meaning through speech. Developing conversation skills is an important part of socialization.
We use conversation skills in various contexts daily, such as in shops, restaurants, school or work, and at home. Nowadays, we also have virtual conversations with friends and family using phones, computers, or tablets.
At what age do children learn conversation skills?
Most children will develop conversation skills around 1-2 years old. These skills are then developed throughout their time at school.
EYFS students might develop conversation skills through reading activities, group listening, talks with teaching staff or other class members, and activities that lead them to express emotions.
KS1 classes can work on conversation skills by having a no-pen day (a day that focuses on verbal and listening skills), listening to discussion prompts and giving their opinions, and expanding their vocabulary.
Children in KS2 will further develop their conversation skills through group discussions, for example, in PSHE or English, working with a ‘talk partner’ with whom they share their ideas throughout the day, and using roleplay activities.
Why are conversation skills important?
Conversation skills are crucial when we are building relationships. Listening to people and engaging with their words is an important skill that conveys politeness and strengthens emotional bonds. For children, conversation skills help them to gain confidence and sustain friendships.
Improving conversation skills is an important part of children’s language development. Listening to others helps children to build their vocabulary and become more fluent in a language. And conversations can allow children to share and exchange ideas and learn more about other people’s perspectives.
It’s important to develop conversation skills at school as they’re a vital part of social interaction in later life in settings like shops, places to eat, and work.
How to improve conversation skills
- Be conscious of your body language. For example, crossed arms could make you seem closed off while standing too close to someone could make them uncomfortable.
- Ask questions. This shows the other person that you’re listening to them and taking an interest.
- Talk slowly. This way, you’ll sound calmer, and people will better understand you.
- Keep up eye contact. This shows the other person you are engaged in the conversation.