Making conversations with friends is a piece of cake, but when it comes to people you’ve never met before, things can get tricky
At its best, conversation is a perfect blend of pooling information, sharing interests and bringing together ideas. It is a two-way street, involving give and take, action and reaction, and if done rightly, can prove to be one of the most pleasant experiences one human can have with another.
An interesting conversationalist is welcome anywhere and everywhere, and what’s amazing is that you can learn to be one. Here are simple tips and exercises that will help you say the right things at the right time, giving you more confidence and helping you avoid common errors and embarrassing silences between conversations.
Where to start
Starting a conversation is the easiest thing to do. You can start with talking about the small happenings in your daily life. A big misconception is that the first topic of conversation has to be very literary and profound, which is untrue. You can always talk about life, food and drinks and even the weather and end up having a great conversation.
Talking general also comes in handy when you do not know the person you are talking to inside out. Once you start, the topics of discussion are endless and you can talk about sports, supermarkets or shops, books, plays, movies, television programs, news, events, local problems or just about anything under the sun.
What not to talk about
Having only one topic for a conversation is as bad as having none. Do not get started on one topic and tell story after story in relation to it, because it can be very boring for the listener.
Talking to strangers
Making conversations with friends is a piece of cake, but when it comes to people you’ve never met before, things can get tricky.
Here’s what you should do:
1) When you go to someone’s house for the first time, be observant. Look for clues that will help you get to know the people who live there, such as books, magazines or paintings.
2) At a party, survey groups before you join one. Try to spot those closer to your age or look for any similarity you can find.
3) The stranger’s first few remarks should give you clues to his/her interest, so listen carefully and take it on from there.
Six ways to be a good conversationalist
1. Be interested in what’s going on, what’s being talked about, etc.
2. Be friendly. Avoid snobbish facial expressions.
3. Be animated. You are alive, so let your face and gestures show it.
4. Be flexible. Adapt to changing topics, people and their moods.
5. Be tactful. Follow the old saying “Think before you speak”.
6. Be courteous. You should have a general attitude of consideration for others.
Seven big don’ts in conversation
1) Don’t be dogmatic
2) Don’t be condescending
3) Don’t argue
4) Don’t be selfless
5) Don’t be insincere
6) Don’t be egocentric
7) Don’t mumble
How to keep the conversation going
Listen to what is being said. Don’t let the chatter flow over you like water over a stone, and use what you hear. Don’t interrupt and listen politely.
These can be of any sort — questions, expressing your opinions, mild disagreements, etc. But make sure you are on the ball. Don’t jump back to the topic which the group has left 10 minutes back.
No matter how interesting a conversation, a time comes when the topic has been discussed more than enough. This is the time to change the topic. One way to make the transition is to let the old topic die out. Another way is to pick up the last bit of old talk and shift to a new topic. A third way is to shift suddenly and sharply.
In the excitement of talking, we momentarily forget the tragedy that has happened to some members of the group, and before we realize that we have blundered, something hurtful has already been said. In such a case, it is nice to say a quick “I’m sorry…” and move on. Apologizing too much can make things worse.
End of conversation
When you are at some one else’s place, try to leave before the other takes out his watch. Avoid starting a new topic at the door.
How to practice the art of conversation
1. Practice at home with your family. Build up on your weaknesses and try to keep the conversation going for a longer period of time.
2. Practice with your friends. Invite a few for the evening. Reserve a part of the evening for conversation.
3. Practice with strangers. Try to talk to just about everyone. Be alive and an interested listener and talker.
4. Most important of all, seek out conversation. Look for situations in which conversation will develop. Cultivate a healthy, positive attitude towards meeting friends and strangers. Each opportunity to talk will provide you with practice and boost your confidence.