The Art of REAL Conversation

7 Do’s and Don’ts of Conversing with Strangers via The Real Housewives of New York

PHOTO: Bravo TV.

PHOTO: Bravo TV.

I consider myself a fairly good conversationalist, but in the last couple months I’ve met girls who are extremely chat savvy. What struck me was their ability to be natural and to put a complete stranger at ease… it’s that charisma that also makes someone a great interviewee (or interviewer)—both on camera and off. Superb conversationalists don’t try too hard to leave you with a certain impression. They open up enough that you want to find out more. They speak to you in the same voice they use with their close friends. They charm you. I am fascinated by the magnetism, so I turned to The Real Housewives of New York for tips on the art of conversation when meeting someone new.

Be easy to talk to.

One of the first lines we hear out of Carole Radziwill in her debut season of RHONY is “Is my butt showing?” (season 5, episode 1 at Sonja’s party). Though she had met Aviva mere moments before, she wanted to change the topic of conversation so she threw out a casual and humorously self-deprecating remark that one would normally only entrust to someone she’s known longer than five minutes. Carole’s chill demeanor and soft voice coupled with her quick wit would make any conversation with her memorable.

 

Keep your opinions to yourself.

Season 6 newbie Kristen Taekman entered the RHONY clique as neutral as Switzerland. Instead of joining in the traditional housewife pile-on’s when one of them started talking smack, her typical response was “Oh no!” or “She wouldn’t” when one of the girls spoke ill of another. She waited to form her own opinions instead of trying to form unwarranted alliances by being a mean girl. This approach made her more likable, and she avoided alienating anyone off the bat… never mind that she quickly learned which friends she preferred.

 

Stay calm. Keep cool.

Despite the many verbal attacks Ramona fired at Heather Thomson in season 5, Heather never failed to keep her hands to herself and a smile on her face. She comes with a ton of life experience that reminds her never to lose sight of the important things and to keep drama in check. While Heather’s approach certainly turned Ramona off, in the long run most people see the benefit in having a friend who can always look at the bright side of life (and who can fight back when the time is right).

 

Don’t be rude.

This may be an obvious one, but some of us could benefit from the quick reminder. Aviva Drescher tries to come off as easygoing, but the facade quickly fades to uncover the rude ways of this seemingly put-together blonde. She often strikes below the belt, using words as ammunition to insult and attack. You have to give it to her though; the woman knows how to deliver an apology (another day, another post). However, Ramona still rules the “How Not to Make Friends” category with her tactlessness (she recently opened a conversation with a girl she met by asking her if she was marrying a man for his money and, against the recommendation of her friends, referring to the girl’s deceased parents).

 

Don’t dominate the conversation.

It’s not fun to be at the bottom of the see-saw forever. Good conversation is a give and take, and listening is a skill that all good conversationalists possess. Ramona Singer may be complaining here about LuAnn’s inability to listen, but generally speaking she tends to shut down others if they don’t agree with her. If she gets bored with the topic, she tends to move on to something else or simply walk away. These are also examples of dominating a conversation, taking control in an immature way.

 

Don’t be a know-it-all.

One of the biggest complaints about LuAnn de Lesseps is that she too often turns the conversation to herself. You were a gymnast? Oh, I was one too. You wrote a book? I wrote one too. And I have children. And a title. She may have written a book on manners, but that doesn’t mean she knows how to talk to everyone. The habit of constantly interjecting with your own experiences gives off the vibe that you aren’t fully listening to the other person, that you’re simply waiting for your turn to talk about yourself again. Self-righteousness is not a pretty color on anyone you just met; even with close friends, use sparingly.

 

Just be yourself.

There is no fun-loving housewife like Sonja Morgan. She’s the guest at the party that anyone can come up to. She likes to dance, she likes to drink, she likes to flirt. She enters the room with a smile and introduces herself to host and help alike, asking questions and appearing to value the opinion of anyone who will listen. She gives everyone a fair chance and the benefit of the doubt, opening her home and heart to people she meets. Just don’t insult her Caberlesque. Or question her toaster oven empire.

 

All images courtesy of Reality TV GIFs. Tune in to Bravo on Tuesdays for the latest from these Housewives.

What do you think makes a great conversationalist?

 

Catherine Abalos is founder and editor of The Single Diaries.

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