Maybe you’re the type of person who has difficulty running a conversation. Hey, it happens to all of us. In truth, not many people are naturally gifted at starting and keeping a conversation going. It takes some skill, personality, persistence, and a bit of observation.
It also helps when you take time to listen to what the other person has to say. Just think about it for a moment: how many times do we get caught thinking about something else (a date we had, something that happened at work, or anywhere else) and didn’t actually pay attention to the person we were talking to?
When you’re paying attention, it will help you find the right way to guide the conversation in a new direction or refresh something you’ve been talking about for a while. (Of course, a ‘while’ for some people could be 2 minutes or an hour for someone else.)
1. Have an interest in the conversation.
If you’re on a first date and the topic of the conversation is completely mundane to you, or something you really don’t want to talk about, that’s going to make things difficult for you. If you have no interest in the conversation, gracefully and respectfully bow out.
As I already mentioned, you need to be an active listener when it comes to a conversation. If you don’t listen or pay attention, it’s usually a sign that you’re not interested in it. If that’s the case, see Tip #1.
3. Make and maintain eye contact.
In Western cultures, eye contact is important for carrying on a conversation. That’s not the case everywhere in the world, though. When you make eye contact, it helps you focus on the conversation at hand and that will allow you to stay engaged in it.
4. Develop a list of possible topics beforehand.
When you know you’re going to be talking to someone, either over dinner or somewhere else, for a length of time, think about things you might want to discuss. When you have a list of topics beforehand, it will help you guide the conversation in the right direction.
5. Ask questions.
Questions usually illicit answers. Be sure to ask questions of the other person or people with whom you’re talking. This will not only show them you’re engaged and interested, but that you’re paying attention.
Avoid using this tip, though, to make it appear as though you’re actually paying attention. They may have already answered it before you asked, and that would surely show you don’t care much about it.
6. Don’t think … talk.
If you’re thinking about something related to your conversation (“Yeah, I recently had that same idea,” for example), say it. What good will it do the conversation to keep things inside? None, really.
It takes practice to become skilled at anything. Just keep working on your conversation skills.
Oh, and know when to end the conversation. Not everything needs to go on forever. Sometimes you or the other person(s) will become tired, so take certain cues as signs it’s time to end it. Then you’ll become a master of conversation.
Written by G. T. Hedlund