I found this interesting article on ABC Life by writer Mia Timpano: Is having great conversation a science or an art? Turns out it’s a bit of both.
As someone who obsesses over daily minutiae, I really enjoyed the content. Small talk can be such a culturally-specific and personal thing, with everyone set in their own conversational habits. People certainly differ in the ways that they speak, how long they take to respond and whether they are concise or verbose.
To me, the biggest thing has always been eye contact. Everyone should be comfortable with pauses and extended silence—things can take time to process and the article makes this point very well—but simply hearing isn’t enough. It’s important to show that you’re listening to someone by engaging with them visually and providing real-time feedback.
Not everyone is a keen or enthusiastic interlocutor, however, I certainly think that a percentage of people have become worse in their conversational abilities, due to an over-reliance on smartphones and digital services.