One of the key challenges that people face when they meet new people at a social gathering or at meetings is “how to keep the conversation going”. Many people begin brightly greeting each other and exchanging simple background information about one another. Yet interestingly, despite the bright start, many conversations seem to hit a snag and grind to a halt as quickly as they were started.
The outcome is a familiar result to most of us who’ve tried initiating conversations with people who we have just met: Awkard Silence!
Now I’ve observed that many people have gotten themselves into that situation so frequently that many now just tend to shut up or (better still) head straight for the buffet table and gorge themselves with the spread of delicacies at parties in the hope of avoiding any sort of conversation at all! Now that isn’t a big problem if the food’s great. But imagine the additional pain and disgust that greets your taste buds when the food s*cks!
Now surely there’s a simpler way of keeping conversations going?!
Yes! There is!
Now here’s a technique that I’d like to call “It’s all about you!”
You see, in most instances, I’ve realised that one of the biggest reasons that people stall at conversations is because of the lack of common ground established between those who are speaking. It’s not really about a lack of common topics (we’ve all got jobs, families, pets, children, the pesky boss, bad hair days etc.) to talk about. In fact, you don’t even need any to be an interesting conversationalist! Here’s why:
People are intrinsically interested about themselves and the things that they like. To put in another words, we are interested in the things that we are interested in! Makes sense doesn’t it?
Do you remember the times when you kept going on about your favourite football or basketball team? Or how about the last time your child did the wackiest thing in school? And then there’s the last great vacation you took to Paris, how did it all feel? Did you have any problem talking about it? Well, chance are you didn’t, because you enjoyed talking so much you just couldn’t stop! And the best thing is, you enjoyed it!
But here’s the catch, what interests us may not necessarily interest others. And yet, have you ever realised that dogs are probably the only animal in the whole wide world that does not have to work for it’s living? Chickens and ducks have to lay eggs, cows have to give milk and oxen have to provide labour, and yet dogs give nothing to us but their undivided attention and interest in us. Do dogs have to talk to us to make us to make the “connection”? Why no! And thank goodness they don’t have to, otherwise we’ll have to start sending them for language classes too!
Now taking a page from the lessons that dogs teach us, we must understand that the first step to becoming an interesting conversationalist is to become keenly interested in other people. I’m not asking you to poke your noses into their private affairs! No! But to be interested in their interests and learn to share their joys and wonder too.
Now to help you explore more on what are the ways to display your “interest” in people, try the simple steps below when you’re trying to establish that “connection” with other people:
1. Using open ended questions
Use words like “When, Why, How, What, Where, Who” when enquiring general information about your new friends (during ice breaking and introduction) instead of questions that require only simple Yes/No responses.
2. Build on their response!
For example, if your new friend says that he’s working in the Real Estate industry, you could use open-ended questions again by asking “Where is his office” or “Which area of Real Estate”?
The key idea here is to probe deeper into the core interest of your new friend.
3. Get ready to jump!
No no no, I don’t mean doing jumping jacks in the presence of your new friend. But you should be ready to skip the drier and less promising questions to areas which could potentially generate more interest from your new friend.
So if he really isn’t really excited about his Real Estate job, you could switch to sports, or if it’s apparent that he’s into traveling, then you may want to delve into that area instead.
4. Encourage him to speak more
Remember, you want to get him to talk and you as little as possible! So just keep asking questions and listen (for more clues)!
Use words like “That’s interesting” and “I’m curious, please tell me more” to get him to continue sharing. Don’t be afraid to show your “ignorance” too by seeking clarification on certain points which you’re not very clear of. After all, asking questions is sign that you’re paying attention and interested in what he has to say!
5. Attention, Attention, Attention
How did it feel to you when you were talking to someone and he/she didn’t even bother to look at you? I’m sure you must have felt pretty appreciated by that person right?
Now, PAYING attention to what someone has to say is a basic courtesy and it will reflect on you. Moreover, it’s a sign of respect to the speaker and the value of his/her words. To have your eyes darting from one corner of the room to a tree outside or even the next gorgeous person that walks in is a signal that the speaker’s message is of no importance whatsoever and that the person isn’t really as significant as he’d like you to think!
How would it make you feel if someone were to walk up to you and tell you that you’re insignificant and worthless piece of junk? I’m pretty sure that chances are, you won’t want to be seeing anytime soon him!
So this last point may be point number 5, but it’s definitely an important key to you becoming an interesting conversationalist. Give your speaker your undivided attention! Yes, I don’t care if there’s a fire in the room or if the walls are mouldy, show your speaker that you respect him by giving him your undivided attention!
So there you have it! 5 simple steps to being an interesting conversationalist and for avoiding stalling your conversation engine! It doesn’t take very much to keep a conversation going!
So now, when are you going to make more new friends?
I apologise, I meant, how many more new friends would you like to make?