Communication Skills | Relationship Advice


en•gage: 1. to obtain and hold someone's attention. 2. to involve oneself in a battle, conflict, or agreement. 3. as it applies to this book, the ability to enter into a conversation and gain the attention of others in a positive manner.

You're Another Step Closer To Unleashing The Winner Within! People love to talk, but often hate to listen. When it's your turn to talk, make your points quickly and in an interesting manner so that your listeners aren't likely to get bored. Then step aside and allow your listeners a chance to do their share of the talking. If you do your part well, people will naturally be more eager to converse with you again in the future.

If you don't have a mobile or cellular (cell) phone by now, then you're regarded by most people as living in the Stone Age. Everywhere you look, whether while you're driving around in your car, shopping in the grocery store, or waiting in line for coffee at Starbucks, you'll see people talking away on one of these modern communication devices.

Evidently, people who talk a lot on their phones are on a different calling plan than me. My calling plan includes 450 minutes a month at a cost of about $40. But if I go over my allotted minutes per month, I get penalized for additional time on the phone at 45 cents per minute. During one of my busiest months, I went over my phone minute limit and had to pay an additional $75 fee. Ever since then, I've been careful to avoid wasting time talking away on my cell phone with pointless chatter.

Whether you're talking on your cell phone with a limited calling plan or engaging in a face-to-face conversation with a close friend, be sure that you make good use of your time by having something of value to say and getting to your point quickly. In doing so, you'll help keep your listeners interested and eager for another lively conversation with you in the future. Don't make the common mistake of thinking that just because you want to talk, other people will be thrilled about listening for very long.


Sometimes we forget just how short some people's attention spans can be at any given time. Take, for example, a situation we've all been in where you're sitting in your car stopped at a red traffic light. You might find yourself looking out the side window doing a little bit of daydreaming when the signal suddenly turns green. No more than a second later, you're almost guaranteed to hear the driver in the car behind you blasting their horn. It might have been only a second or two of waiting, but it's a reminder to you that some people can be very impatient.

A similar kind of impatience occurs often in our daily conversations. If we take too long in telling a personal story, people start getting annoyed at having to listen. Out of politeness, they may not interrupt us while we're speaking. But if there was a courteous way of honking their proverbial horns, they would certainly be on it quickly in order to get us to move along in our speaking!

Have you ever heard a professional stand-up comedian who is slow at getting to their points? The answer, of course, is "no." That's because a comedian understands that the mind moves infinitely quicker than the spoken word. In order for the comedian to be effective, they must grab the attention of the audience with an interesting story or comment and move quickly to the punch line. A comedian who communicates slowly will bore their audiences and find themselves looking for a new line of work.

Whether you're a stand-up comic or a regular person wanting to communicate more effectively, it's important to talk in a manner that quickly appeals to your audience. That usually means that the time you spend talking should be short and sweet initially. It's only after each person has had a chance to speak that you can safely elaborate more fully on your end of the conversation.


Once you realize that most people have a fickle attention span, it becomes your first priority to grab a secure hold of it as quickly as you can. Otherwise, you may go on and on about a topic without anyone else actually listening to you!

The following suggestions are designed to help you grab an audience's attention during the critical early moments of your conversation. If you get good at this, people will eagerly anticipate a lively conversation with you in the future.

Start off at a snappy pace. Begin by speaking in short, simple sentences as a way of warming up. Sometimes this means being as basic as saying, "Hi! How are you? What's up?" Like Olympic sprinters in the 100 meter run, a lively two-way conversation may take a series of quick small steps before you can hit your stride. Do this instead of beginning a conversation with a long, uninterrupted monologue on your part. We've all endured that unpleasant experience at times from others.

Make a bold statement. Like the headlines on the front page of The New York Times, it takes a bold statement to grab someone's immediate attention. For example, around Valentine's Day, you can start off a conversation by saying, "Flowers are a rip-off! The florist down the street is selling a dozen red roses for $100 plus $20 for delivery!" Another example might be: "Talk about terrible role models! The antics of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan are setting a terrible example for impressionable young women."

Tease them with a question. If you've ever listened closely to a professional speaker, you'll notice that they often initiate their talks by asking their audiences a question. In fact, these speakers will frequently begin with the statement, "Let me ask you a question." Then they'll follow by asking something like: "Has there ever been a time when you felt total helpless or afraid?" or "Have you ever been in a situation where everyone knew each other and you were the lone stranger?" By asking a leading question, the listener is forced to think. If done properly, this is an effective way to grab attention and involve your listeners quickly in a conversation with you.

Entice your audience with an inside secret. What better way is there to stir up your listener's curiosity, then to disclose an inside secret or reveal privileged information? The next time that you stand in line at the grocery store, take a moment to scan the magazines and notice how they entice potential buyers with catchy headlines like "Criminal Minds: Behind the Scenes (TV Guide)," "Secrets to More Energy (Ladies' Home Journal)," and "Where will you meet your next boyfriend? (Cosmopolitan Magazine)." When you know something interesting or important that someone else doesn't, it creates a natural response to pay attention to what you have to say.

Relay the hottest news. With the growth of the Internet, news travels now at lightning speeds. But not everyone has the time or inclination to follow the news as it is developing. Examples of breaking news would include court verdicts (like the O.J. Simpson murder trial or Anna Nicole Smith estate ruling), celebrity mishaps (Britney Spears, Mel Gibson, Paris Hilton), sporting event outcomes (who won the Super Bowl), and television show recaps (American Idol eliminations, Survivor finalists, or what happened the other night on The Sopranos). While hardly anyone cares to know the details of everything that is happening in the world, most people would be curious to know the highlights or headlines on the few subjects that are of particular interest to them.

Make people laugh or smile. If you can get your audience to actually do something in the first 10 seconds, you'll greatly increase your chances of securing their attention. One of the best ways to do this is by using humor to prompt your listeners to laugh, chuckle, or smile. Excellent examples of folks who have this down pat are late night television talk show hosts like David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Jimmy Kimmel. If you closely watch these entertainers perform, you'll notice that an attempt at humor will come almost every minute!

Be excited about your subject. If you're not enthusiastic about your subject, then your audience isn't going to feel that way either. Be sure that your topic is something that stimulates you and makes you eager to share it. That kind of emotion will naturally transfer to your listeners. If you can't find a convenient subject to be excited about, then shift your attention to playing the role of an attentive listener instead.

Getting off to a good start in a conversation requires you to engage quickly and effectively. Don't make the common mistake of thinking that people will naturally want to hear what you have to say. In today's busy world, a person may only be willing to hear the first sentence or two of what you want to share before deciding if they're going to listen to you any more.


On a notepad (or in a personal journal if you have one), take a few moments now to list the common ways that you habitually begin your conversations. For example, I have a habit of starting off my conversations at a snappy pace. That's worked well for me in most cases. Still, I'm sure there are people who think that I'm too perky at times when they feel this doesn't seem to fit the occasion.

Now take a look at the list of suggestions in the previous section of this chapter. Find some approaches that you don't normally use and try them in your next conversations. Experiment with these new ways of engaging your audience and see if you are able to grab the attention of your listeners right from the start. This might feel a bit awkward at first, but realize that you need to develop more variety in how you start conversations. That way, you'll have the element of surprise working for you whenever someone chooses to enter into a conversation with you.

“Her conversation was like a very light champagne, sparkling but not mounting to the brain.”

Gertrude Atherton Author of Transplanted (1919)

For many people, getting started in a conversation is the most challenging part. When you have a variety of interesting ways to engage yourself in a discussion, it will become easier for you to get your interactions off to a flying start.


Remember that in order to "talk like a winner" in the broadest sense, you must "engage like a winner" as well. All you have to do is follow a simple and powerful rule: Grab the attention of your listeners. Once you know and understand the significance of this essential part of successful communication, it's only a matter of practicing and testing it every day in your own life until it becomes a natural habit.