The chief ends of conversation are to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade.
-- BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
Charming people keep up their end of the conversation by passing the ball back and forth easily and naturally.
Your goal is to participate actively in the conversation while at the same time encouraging your conversational counterparts to take over as much as they want. You are like a tennis player who concentrates on keeping the ball in play. Like a tennis coach, you hit the ball so your student can reach it and get an opportunity to hit it back. The longer the rally lasts, the more valuable it is for the student, as well as for the conversationalist.
Most conversations begin with polite, social banter. These light exchanges allow both parties to gauge the mood and receptivity of the other person. You can then shift the conversation to more profound matters, depending on the direction you want to go.
One of the best ways to keep the conversational ball in play is to use questions that spin off from what you're already talking about. For example, imagine that at the beginning of the conversation you began talking about food.
You say, "Have you tasted these snacks? They're delicious!"
The other person replies and then you speak again, introducing a new question: "I must say, my enjoyment of food always threatens my waistline. What type of foods do you prefer?"
Whatever the answer, you agree. "Me, too," you say. "I love most foods as long as they're well prepared and tasty. Do you eat out a lot?"
The other person gives an answer, then you continue: "I think the best home-cooking-type restaurant in town is [name your favorite restaurant]."
That comment leads into the next question: "Have you ever been there?"
The person answers, and then you continue. "You must try it. Just about everything they make is exceptional. Do you have any restaurants that you particularly enjoy?"
For each answer, you continue with a follow-up question: "Do you enjoy eating out?" And so on.
Obviously, the conversation could go in a hundred different directions but, as you can see, the basic idea is to keep the conversation bouncing back to the other person. It is not complicated or difficult to do. It just involves putting your ego on the back burner and attending to the needs or interests of the other person. It is the key to being charming.
In conversation, remember that it is not about you. It is about the other people around you. Most people are so concerned about themselves and the impression they are making, they lose their naturalness and spontaneity.
When you talk to another person, forget about yourself. Don't worry about being liked or popular. Instead, focus on making others feel liked and popular.