tennis conversation

Basic Structure of a Conversation

What is the basic structure of a conversation?

The basic structure of a conversation is simple. By applying the pattern below, you can begin to start speaking more and be a better listener. Once you learn this simple structure, you can adapt it for conversations with two or more people. All good conversations contain two important components: reactions and follow-up questions.

Let’s compare speaking to bowling, tennis, and basketball. In each case, the ball represents speech or talking.

Imagine someone is bowling. How many people bowl at once in a group of bowlers? Just one, right? This is not a conversation. This is a monologue or lecture where the other participants are only watching and listening. Eventually, they will get a turn, but this is not a natural conversation in English.

Imagine two people are playing tennis. They hit the ball back and forth, each having a turn. This is a conversation between two people. It’s important for both people to pay attention and hit the ball during their turn. Otherwise, the game (and conversation) doesn’t go well.

Imagine a game of basketball. There are two teams with 5 active players (and more on the bench) all trying to get the ball and score. This is a group conversation, where the ball moves around a lot, everyone participating in the conversation. It can become chaotic at times, but it can also work in an organized way if it is done well.

We are going to focus on a conversation between two people to begin. What does this tennis match look like? In the beginning, we want to learn the proper form. Later, we can be more flexible.

Follow this pattern:

A: Ask an interesting question to start the conversation

B: Answer the question with a detail (You can give a couple of details, but not too many! Be careful not to start bowling!)

A: React with a rejoinder + ask a follow-up question

B: Answer with one or two details

A: React with a rejoinder + ask a follow-up question

B: Answer with one or two details

A: React with a rejoinder + ask a follow-up question

B: Answer and ask “What about you?” + the original question

A: Answer with one or two details

B: React with a rejoinder + ask a follow-up question

A: Answer with one or two details

B: Rejoinder + follow-up question

A: Answer with one or two details

B: Rejoinder + follow-up question

A: Answer

B: Close conversation with a rejoinder

You can find a basic example here.

Join the conversation

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