As Wikipedia puts it, communication is a process of transferring information from one entity to another and a conversation is communication between multiple people.
I would like to add to this: The first can’t be avoided; the second is voluntary and usually is planned.
As social communication skills both add up, your conversational ability will help you to create an exchange whereas your communication skills will add to your ability to establish the rapport with others and add to your own charisma.
To enhance both of them your ability to listen will be a major asset.
In conversations, listening will mean your ability to pay attention to what is being said and understand what is meant. To achieve this, it will help you to acknowledge what is being said by letting the other person know that you are listening, for example by nodding, saying “yes”, “I see” or providing other signals that you pay attention to the person who is speaking. You might also want to paraphrase what has been said, as this will help you to make sure you understood well what has been said. Show that you are actively listening and that you are genuinely interested in what is being said. By being interested in your fellow human beings you will earn their respect and will be able to establish contact. Don’t worry about striking a conversation with a newcomer. They are just waiting for you to make the first move.
In a similar way, your ability to listen to communication – meaning to see and understand what is being communicated through non-verbal communication will help you tremendously. Pay attention for example to the breathing of the person you are talking to. Do you see him or her breathing in as a gesture to start talking? If needed finish your sentence, but then do give them room to express themselves. This will be appreciated and will establish a connection between the two of you. Just continuing to talk might be misunderstood as if you would be trying to send out a signal saying “I’m superior and can go on talking”.
Use your capacity to listen and you will hear and see the correct message.
[Original publication via frogstalk.com, April 20, 2010]