our everyday life

How to Converse with Poise

by Zoe Maletta, studioD

She floats across the room to greet her guests, and every eye follows her. Her height is diminutive, yet she looks statuesque. And the best part: when she speaks, her friends love to listen. She has poise, and you can't help but want it too. Although your aim is high, you can rest assured that conversational poise isn't something only the Audrey Hepburns of the world can attain. It's a learned art.

Understand the meaning of poise. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines poise as an "easy self-possessed assurance of manner" and a "gracious tact in coping and handling," cuing you in on the fact that poise isn't something vague or elusive. It's concrete knowledge rooted in confidence.

Gain confidence. Behind every poised conversationalist is a subtle confidence that grows stronger over time. To gain confidence, honestly assess both your strengths and your weaknesses and then seek to improve all areas. The more you understand who you are, the more comfortable you'll be in exploring meaningful conversation with others.

Focus on others. When you devote your attention to topics that interest others -- and listen more than you speak -- your self-consciousness diminishes and your likelihood for a faux pas diminishes with it. As a bonus, when you do err, your acquaintance will likely be too busy expounding his own thoughts to notice your stumble.

Avoid filler words. Words like "uh" or "um" or "like" contribute nothing to a conversation and showcase your nervousness. Enlist your closest friends to point out your instances of use and put a quarter in a jar each time you're caught. Soon you'll kick the habit, or at least lessen it considerably.

Speak softly. When Frank Lucas in the movie "American Gangster" says, "the loudest person in the room is the weakest," he could have stolen the line from a 1950s etiquette manual. Speaking softly commands attention and helps create a calm atmosphere conducive to quality conversation.

Improve your posture. Rachel Dorminy, writing for "Sweet Lemon," suggests that the appearance of grace and confidence begins with good posture. Regular exercise -- especially upper body toning -- will improve your posture, as will daily posture awareness. Keep your head up and your shoulders back, your stomach tucked in and both feet planted on the floor. With regular practice, this stance will become a habit.

Practice self-control. The rudeness of others often provides an opportunity for the display of poise. When the course of a conversation tempts you to vent or to put another person in her place, remember the virtue of self-control and ask yourself if you're truly willing to lose your control. If you're prone to sharing, consider making a different outlet for your self-expression, such as a journal or a blog.

Imitate grace. One of the most fulfilling ways to learn the art of poised conversation is to find someone who has mastered it. Study him and watch how he guides conversation, responds to rudeness and carries himself. Then seek to imitate that grace in your own life.


  • There's a fine line between appearing poised and appearing aloof. Don't let your quest for poised conversation stifle your true personality. You can be yourself and be poised at the same time.


  • Embrace silence; don't fear it. Nervous speech or socially inappropriate comments often occur because the speaker views silence as awkward. When a conversational lull happens, don't panic. Use the silence as time to calmly think of a related question or to change the topic tactfully.

About the Author

Zoe Maletta writes on a variety of topics with special focus on leadership, careers and small business management. Professionally writing since 2007, her many publishers include "The Houston Chronicle", "Global Post Careers" and "The Nest." When she's not writing, Maletta enjoys making memories with family and participating in church ministry. Maletta holds both a B.S.and an M.A. in counseling.

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