Are you having trouble making friends because your conversation is stalling or taking an awkward turn? Well, trust me – I’ve been there! This is a conversation guide that will help you a LOT in your next social interactions.
Once I went to a New Year’s party with my cousin, and at one point we got separated. But I handled the situation like an adult…
Just kidding – I panicked! Who wouldn’t? The only person I knew at that party disappeared on me.
Luckily or unluckily, someone noticed my discomfort. The person came up to talk to me, and let’s just say the conversation died as soon as it started. I was tongue-tied and had nothing smart or funny to say other than a squeak of yes or no.
I’m pretty sure you’ve been through something similar or maybe even worse. Now, all you want to do is cringe thinking about those moments.
Don’t worry, cheer up! Now I can keep a conversation going, so you can do it too. In fact, anyone can. You just have to learn how.
Today, I will guide you through some steps you can follow to start and hold an interesting conversation. So, fasten your seatbelts because it’s time to ride your way into being the perfect conversationalist.
Step 1: Be more interested
This technique has to be the most helpful to keep a conversation alive, especially for beginners. Everyone, be it me or you, loves it when someone finds our stories interesting. We end up wanting to talk to them even more.
So, next time you’re at a party or a gathering, give this technique a try. Listen to what your conversation partner is saying and show your genuine interest.
Now, focus on the keyword ‘genuine.’ You have to talk or ask questions about things you’re genuinely curious about. The great thing about this method is it gets you on the good side of other people.
It does not hurt to be a good listener. People will appreciate you much more, and you won’t have problems making friends. I guarantee you that.
Let me draw you an idea here – if someone is telling you a story that interests you, pull the ‘tell me more’ stunt. It works most, if not all, of the time.
Step 2: The Eyebrow Raise
An interaction doesn’t necessarily need to use words. In this conversation guide, we also talk about body communication.
There’s another technique to show your interest without having to use your words. It’s one of the most fun and simplest tricks you can use – the famous ‘eyebrow raise’ technique. Yep, you heard me right!
Let me tell you about one of my eyebrow-raising incidents. Last summer, I attended a convention, and I had the chance to talk to someone I highly regarded. It was like a dream come true since I always wanted to collaborate with him.
However, the whole time I talked, he had not said one word but only hummed or nodded along. It got me wondering – were my talks boring him?
So I decided to pull out the big guns. With the hopes of meeting the said person, I had already done my research before I left for the convention. So I knew about his love for games. I started talking about how my team was working on developing one.
Then it happened. I literally saw the moment I captured the man’s interest. Yes, he did the famous eyebrow raise. That was the sign for me.
The man began sharing his story, and later, we exchanged cards. I slept the most peaceful that night, knowing I bagged one of the most notable clients.
Step 3: Open-Ended Questions
Have you ever found a one-word reply interesting? I surely haven’t!
Here’s a tip for you – if you want a conversation to keep going, always ask open-ended questions. You need to steer clear of any subject that could end a conversation in just a yes or no.
For instance, if you ask someone how they’ve been doing, they can simply reply with a ‘fine’ or ‘Not bad.’ What you can do here is follow up your close-ended question with an open-ended one.
So your next question could be, “What’s been going well for you?” This moment is where you’ll get a person talking.
Step 4: Avoid boring topics
Remember how I worked my charm on a possible client by talking about games and what not? Yeah, well, let’s be honest here – not everyone is going to get the gist of it.
You cannot expect every person you talk to, to find talks about programming and games interesting. The information will only fly right over their head.
So here’s what you need to do – know your audience before you shoot your shot. Always.
Don’t let it get to the point where the other person actually calls you out and say you’re boring.
Note: This is especially true when you’re an introvert. You need to use your strengths to your advantage. This means you need to plan before you go into a conversation.
Step 5: Fill the Silence
When there is a lull in a conversation and silence settles in, people become overly conscious and uncomfortable. In situations like this, you need to try and find something to say. It helps to keep the conversation going.
For instance, say you’re talking to a person you met at a gathering, but then you notice your conversation stalling. The natural reaction is to make an excuse to go find drinks or something and leave the person. Don’t do this.
Instead, you can go back to your previous topic if you’re over the current one.
Here’s an example:
“By the way, you said you went to Paris last month, how was it?”
It’s fine if the person knows you’re trying to keep the conversation alive. People tend to respect that behavior. You just have to persevere.
Step 6: The Power of Eye Contact
Can you think back to any moment talking to someone who did not look you in the eye during an entire conversation? Or perhaps, they kept getting distracted, showing their absence of mind and making you feel of no importance.
Keeping good eye contact while talking to someone shows your interest and attention. It also conveys your message to the person that they are important.
It’s your way of saying, ‘I am listening’ through your eyes.
However, when you avoid eye contact, it creates a negative impact. Even if you don’t mean to, you’ll come off as rude and give the wrong impression to others.
A part of looking at a person in the eye is to build a connection and trust. It’s a way of assuring them that you’re confident, self-assured, and can trustworthy.
So, always remember the saying – the eyes never lie!
Having said that, make sure you know how to keep eye contact the right way. You don’t want to chase people away just because you glared unintentionally or stared a little too intensely.
If you ask me, this is probably the most important step in this conversation guide.
Step 7: Find out your Common Interests
Let’s assume that you’re talking to a person and they tell you that they’re a writer. Now my advice is, use this bit of information to your advantage.
If you’re a book lover, you can start by asking about her books. Once you know you have gotten their attention, it’s time to make some assumptions and test out the waters.
For instance, my assumptions of her would be:
- Since she’ss a writer, she loves to read
- Likes going to parks to write
- Prefers fantasy and mystery over romance
- Loves cats
- Lives an independent life in the city
Now, as we all know, hypotheses could be wrong, but it doesn’t hurt to try putting it to test. Start by talking about a particular topic, and if you get a positive response, you’re good to go.
While making assumptions about people isn’t a good thing, you can sometimes use it for a good purpose. In your case, it’s to keep an interesting conversation going and connect faster with people.
Step 8: No to Conversational Sins
Now you must be wondering – what’s a conversational sin?
Well, let me be the bearer of the bad news. If you commit the sins of conversation, you can potentially say goodbye to a new friendship, relationship, or even business.
Here are some of the conversational sins:
- Interruption – Always let them finish what they are saying first or have a good reason to do so.
- Lack of reciprocity – When someone asks you a question, you should ask back after your answer. If they ask about your day, reply, and then ask, “How was yours?” Reciprocity plays a vital role in conversations.
- Unresponsive – When did being unresponsive ever work? Talking to an unresponsive person is like talking to a wall. You need to give a response to show you understand them.
- The One-Upper – Trust me, you really don’t want to be a one-upper. If someone tells you how bad their day went, just listen and let them have their time. You don’t have to one-up them and comment that you had worse.
Step 9: Use Conversation Starters
A typical conversation turns memorable if you use a great conversation starter in any situation.
Everyone needs to have a go-to conversation opener.
Opening a conversation isn’t always easy. Sometimes, we’re at the end of our wits thinking of the perfect opener, yet we come up with nothing.
But why do you have to think so hard?
According to research, a simple, “Hey, how are you?” is the most efficient conversation opener. This is because it’s fast, simple, universal, and prevents overthinking. So why not start there?
Next time, if you feel brave enough, you could go for some conversation starters like:
- Tell me about yourself
- Are you having fun?
Furthermore, you can even use your surroundings and environment to help. Comment on the drinks and snacks or ask about the event to keep your conversation going.
- How’s your work coming along?
- What are you doing next weekend?
Note: This conversation guide doesn’t delve too deep into this topic. Check out the post on conversation starters to get more comfortable with this.
Step 10: No Filters Please
It’s not always easy to keep a conversation going. Not because we cannot think of a topic, but because of the fearful thoughts in our head.
“What if they don’t enjoy the specific topic or subject that’s on my mind?” or “Would I sound smart or cool if I talk about this?”
First of all, you need to stop over analyzing. It’ll get you nowhere. Just blurt out whatever’s on your mind. Once you do this, you’ll come to understand that you’ll find that people often relate best to your unfiltered thoughts.
If you’re still anxious, I suggest you practice this technique first with the people you know. It’s the best feeling to speak your mind with no one to judge you.
Just don’t say anything regretful that could end up with you on the receiving end of a punch!
Step 11: Practice and More Practice
I’ve come across many people who were the most introverted and shy. In the beginning, they had trouble striking up a conversation or even to keep it going. Now, they can manage to talk to people for hours.
How did they pull it off? It’s simple. They practiced and practiced until they were satisfied with the end result. By stepping out of their comfort zone, they worked themselves to socialize and meet different people.
You can try the same, and you’ll notice a significant improvement in your conversation skills.
Additionally, it’s always a plus point if you practice being an active listener. For an extroverted person, this method may be quite challenging. So, you can practice it with your family, friends, or partner.
Doing this exercise helps you be mindful of the time frame you spend listening to what others say.
Step 12: Notice a Lost Cause
This conversation guide wouldn’t be complete with this step, and probably one of the most important as well.
Keep in mind that you’re not obligated to find every person interesting. Sometimes, you need to notice a lost cause and cut it off.
For instance, the person you’re talking to is unsociable or doesn’t show any interest in the conversation. Simply end your talk politely and find someone else you can talk to.
You can say something like, “Please excuse me. I just saw a friend come in, so I’ll go say ‘hi’. It was nice talking to you”.
Remember that there is no point dragging a stalled conversation with someone you don’t have a connection with.
Wrapping Up This Conversation Guide
You now have covered the guide on how to keep a conversation going. So, it’s time for you to get out there and work your magic. Remember, practice makes perfect.
This conversation guide is divided into 12 steps for you to easily follow like a notebook. Make use of it!
Follow these steps, and in no time, you’ll overcome your doubts and become a great conversationalist. Take this opportunity and start making conversation, but more importantly, don’t forget to have fun. You can do this!