We all understand what it feels like to be tongue-tied. We’ve all had that experience. Perhaps it was a friend who got too excited about The Game of Thrones—a show that’s got so viral but which you’ve never watched a second of. Or it could be a co-worker who kept talking about his recent trip to Berlin, and you just couldn’t think of anything interesting to say because you’ve never even been to Europe before.
You may feel bad about yourself. But the good news is: the solution to this is simple.
Trick #1: Give short and simple responses. (Don’t underestimate their power!)
The truth is, on any given day, we have so many conversations with so many different people about so many different things, most people don’t even remember what they’ve said! What’s more, a lot of the conversations aren’t supposed to be meaningful in the first place. Which is why it’s okay to not know what to say, because, most likely, it doesn’t matter what you say, or if you say anything at all. The other person will probably forget it soon enough.
So, why do we talk so much if our conversations aren’t important? The reason is that we like to feel connected with one another, and chatting with people helps us understand each other. The purpose of having a conversation is, purely and simply, to keep the conversation going. You really don’t have to trouble yourself to come up with interesting or clever responses.
For example, if your friend keeps bothering you with his favorite TV show, but you have absolutely no idea what to say about it, just say that you like to watch TV too but aren’t following the show he’s talking about (and maybe mention your own favorite show). You’re not trying to write a critique of TV shows, so it doesn’t matter if you have any insightful comments to contribute. Be comfortable chattering about nothing, and be happy that you’re spending time with a friend!
Trick #2: Listen to what the other says, and try to relate it to something else.
Another trick is to associate. Look to the current conversation for inspiration, and talk about something else instead. It can be something that you find interesting or know about, but it doesn’t have to be related to what you’ve been talking about. Use your imagination. Digress. And move on.
For instance, if your co-worker is sharing his travel experience in Berlin and you don’t know how to respond, try talking about something vaguely related. You can say something like: Berlin does sound amazing! I heard you can’t go to Berlin and not eat currywurst. But, hmm, it’s just sausage to me. By the way, do you know about that cool new hotdog stand right around the corner? …
Trick #3: Ask questions and let the other person talk more.
You can also try letting the other person do the talking. For instance, when someone talks to you about Gothic architecture but you know nothing about it, try replying with an enthusiastic ‘Interesting!’. Ask for further details using open-ended questions, e.g. What do you think about the Physics Building at our university then? It looks pretty old-school to me, but I’m not sure how it compares to the Gothic style of the Cologne Cathedral…
This not only shows that you respect the other person, but also that you’re enjoying chatting with them. People will usually be happy that you’re interested in what they’re saying, and will want to share more with you. Remember, you goal here is just to keep the conversation going.
Trick #4: Share your little stories with others.
But if you really struggle with all of the above and end up in awkward silence, don’t panic: you can always share a little something about yourself. You don’t have to worry about being judged or anything. As long as you don’t dig too deep or brag about yourself too much, people are usually willing to listen to you and are interested in what you say. Sharing some detail about yourself makes the other person feel that you trust them, and will make the conversation more pleasant for the both of you.
For example, open up about your pet, or the last time you cooked, or anything random. Then perhaps say one more detail about it, e.g. what colour is your pet fish, how much time it took you to chop all the vegetables, etc. Who knows, maybe they can relate to that, and will share with you their stories too!
|||^||Sean Cooper: Don’t Know What to Talk about? Here’s Why…|
|||^||The Positivity Blog: How to Overcome the I Don’t Know What to Say Syndrome|
|||^||Lifehack: How to Keep a Conversation Going and Never Run Out of Things to Say|
|||^||wikiHow: How to Be More Talkative and Less Shy|
|||^||Dean J: 5 Action Steps When You Don’t Know What to Say|