How to Have an Intelligent Conversation

There are some key topics everyone should know in order to have a productive, intelligent conversation.

It’s possible to talk to anyone about anything, anytime without having read a library-worth of books. Or retreat to the nearest bathroom and turn to Google for help.

A third and wiser option would be to pick up Imogen Lloyd Webber’s “The Intelligent Conversationalist.” In it, Webber, an Emmy-nominated British broadcaster educated at Cambridge, offers 31 cheat-sheets covering pretty much any topic that might come up in a conversation. There are cheat-sheets on the English language, math/economics, religion, history, politics, geography, biology and culture.

We picked Webber’s brain on the power of general knowledge and what topics we could all use to learn more about. 

On how knowing your stuff can boost confidence

“The book is there to hopefully give people a boost of confidence as they go about their lives. They can dip in and out of it,” Webber says.

For instance, if you are going on a date with a writer, Webber suggests reading cheat sheet 27 — “Authors You Need to Know About.”

Meeting with your bank manager? Check out “Subject Two — Math and Economics.” If the finance person is being really smug and objectionable, Webber recommends jumping into the conversation by saying: “I’m with Galbraith, the only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”

Imogen-Lloyd-Webber-Intelligent-Conversation
Imogen Lloyd Webber’s new book “The Intelligent Conversationalist” provides readers with tips on conversational topics ranging from economics to the Middle East.

The area where most people have gaps in their knowledge

The cheat sheet on Middle Eastern History, Webber says, was the hardest to write and “something we all in the West need to know more about.”

The one cheat sheet millennials should read

Cheat sheet 16 — World War I, World War II and the Cold War.
“At 40, I’m old enough to remember the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall coming down; millennials obviously don’t have that experience, but what happened in those decades is key to understanding international relations in the here and now,” says Webber.

How not to sound like a robot spitting out facts

Ask questions and then listen, explains Webber.
A conversation is all about the back and forth, she says. “I list quite a few phrases that are fun to insert into a conversation and see where they then take you, like, ‘All politics are local’ or ‘On some levels we get the politicians we deserve.’”

SNACK ON THIS:

DOWNLOAD FOR FREE Imogen’s favorite cheat sheet.

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