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The gift of gab doesn’t come easily to everyone. Canadians always have the weather as a conversation starter, but that can get pretty predictable—the conversation, not the weather.

Good communicators have an edge. If you want to learn how to command presence by being able to join in on any conversation, you may want to put these tips into your back pocket to remedy those awkward silences (which, by the way, are usually fine).

Grammar matters. You don’t have to be a walking dictionary, but having a relatively decent command of language is the first step toward good conversation.

Learn to listen. Worse than awkward silences are trying to fill them with chatter about yourself. A good rule? Listen first, talk second. If you listen to your companion, the conversation should flow naturally.

Mirroring magic. On occasion, adept communicators usually restate what they’ve heard, or at least what they believe they’ve heard. When you do this, it lets the other person know you’ve been listening to what they’ve been saying, and it will also give them the opportunity of clarifying what they’ve said.

Nix the quick judgement. Rushing to a conclusion about what someone is saying before they’ve had a chance to tell the whole story is usually a mistake. If you’ve used the mirroring technique, chances are you’ll never make this faux pas. Snap judgements aren’t conducive to effortless conversations.

Get your nose in the news. When you at least know something about what’s happening in the world, starting and maintaining a conversation is much simpler. Just remember to keep things light. Stay away from heavy subject matter like politics (unless that’s part of your realm). There are many great things happening in the world these days, and focusing on those positives may set you and your companion up for having a great, feel-good day.

Know when to zip it. Having good communication skills also includes knowing when to keep quiet. Some people, by nature, just aren’t talkers. They like to exchange pleasantries and that’s about it. Take cues from the company you’re in. This is especially true if you’re stuck on a long airplane flight or any other mode of transportation where you’re with strangers. People’s body language will speak loudly and clearly if they want to be left alone.

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