You're on a first date, and all is going smoothly until suddenly… you find yourself running out of things to say.
It's as if your mind has taken a siesta. However hard you try, you can't find the words that you'd like to say. And by the look on your potential partner's face – they're now thinking of making an excuse to leave!
Losing the ability to think and speak in social interactions can be highly embarrassing. If you've ever suffered from this problem, then read on to discover what you can do about it.
It Isn't That You Have Nothing to Say. Just You Set a Filter in Your Mind.
Conversation should flow freely between individuals.
It's normal to have one party talk more than the other, but if you find yourself stuck for words, then you've probably allowed a mental block to prevent you from expressing yourself.
Mental blocks (or filters) can hold back your conversational skills. They are the equivalent of a blockage in a water pipe. Without the blockage, water flows freely. With the blockage, water struggles to make it through to its destination.
Think about this: Do you believe that all conversations should be meaningful or interesting? If you do, then in your mind, you're probably always looking to shut down small talk and trivial chatter.
Small talk may seem inane to you, but it's often the fuel that lights up deeper conversations. If you believe small talk to be foolish, then unconsciously you'll keep guessing how others judge your speech. This means you will be self-censoring everything you say.
While being aware of whether we talk too much is a good thing, if you find yourself struggling for words, then you've probably gone to the other extreme.
For example, you've gone along to a housewarming party, and most of the guests are strangers to you. You'd love to spark up a conversation, but you don't know where to begin. Your mind keeps telling you… Say something interesting. Sound intelligent. Be funny!
It's this type of intense mental pressure that can prevent you from speaking openly and spontaneously.
Perhaps you're worrying too much, however…
Don't Be Too Concerned About What You Say, as Your Words Will Soon Be Forgotten.
Most people have a tendency to think too much about themselves. They are overly conscious of what they wear, what they do, and what they say.
Let me ask you this question: Do you remember everything your friends said at lunch a few days ago?
Probably not. But you don't need to worry.
The vast majority of people are prone to quickly forgetting day-to-day conversations. It's normal. If we had to remember every word that everyone ever spoke – our memory banks would be bursting at the seams!
Actually, it's good news that most conversations are swiftly forgotten. This means that we don't need to pay too much attention to what we say. Put another way, we can speak freely – without worrying whether we're saying the right things.
Of course, if you say something offensive, that will be remembered. (Please avoid this.) However, trivial and funny comments are likely to drift from people's minds like an unanchored boat.
When it comes to conversations, you should also consider that the other person may be struggling to find something to say. You can help them out by always having something to tell – even if it's frivolous. And by continually having plenty to say, you'll likely be regarded as a great conversationalist.
If you have nothing to say, people will remember you for this. And unfortunately, their impression of you is unlikely to be favorable.
Conversation Is Easy and Natural When You Use These 3 Techniques
Would you like to boost your conversational skills? If yes, then you're in the right place.
Here are three techniques you can use to develop confident and free-flowing interpersonal communications.
1. Start with topics that everyone can contribute to
It's a terrible feeling discovering that others are finding your conversation boring or silly. However, it's usually not your conversation that is the problem – but your chosen topic.
Let's say you've gone to lunch for the first time with a work colleague. Before they have chance to initiate a conversation, you immediately begin talking about your young children, the school they go to, and the problems you have with some of their behavior. The disinterested look on your colleague's face tells a story. Namely, they don't have children of their own – and they don't find conversations about children interesting either.
A better approach to this scenario, is to ask open questions. Such as: Are you enjoying working here? Where did you work before? How's your commute?
These types of questions are much more engaging and relevant. And your colleague is sure to have plenty to say in response to each of them. You'll have an interesting conversation, without effort or struggle from either of you.
2. Remind yourself that communication is like playing table tennis
Questions are great for kick-starting conversations. However, just like in a game of table tennis (aka ping pong), the best conversations involve regular back and forth between the participants.
Table tennis also acts as a good illustration of what constitutes agreeable conversations. During a game, each player will try to use a variety of playing styles (e.g., blocks, loops and smashes). This keeps the game lively and challenging. Conversations should follow a similar pattern. For instance, try alternating your side of a conversation with: questions -> comments -> sharing.
As an example for you, imagine that you've been forced to share a table with a stranger in a busy café. You're initially reluctant to talk, but the other person seems friendly and open to conversation.
You could start with a question: "Do you come here often?" Depending on their reply, you could comment: "Yes, I can see why. It's a great coffee shop." You could then move on to sharing something about yourself: "I'm actually just here to get a caffeine boost before my job interview at 10 a.m."
I'm sure you get the idea. Questions… comments… sharing.
3. Realize that you don't need to know a lot of things to be a great conversationalist
Nobody likes a know-it-all. These people can dominate conversations, and make other feel uneducated and second-class.
To be a great conversationalist, you don't need tons of facts, you just need good stories. And what are the best stories? Personal experiences that others can easily relate to.
For instance, most people would be interested in hearing you tell stories about your holiday to New York, Rome or Tokyo. Especially, if you were to reveal funny incidents, inspiring moments and cultural differences. You could talk about an amazing meal, a stunning view – or even just how expensive everything was!
One of the secrets to being a great storyteller, is to evoke an emotional response in your listeners. You can do this by talking about your feelings. You can also flavor your language with sights, smells, sounds and tastes.
Knowledge and facts can often fall on deaf ears, but feelings and emotions are common shared experiences. Whatever the topic, we can all relate to emotive stories.
Interpersonal communications can be fun, friendly and worthwhile, if you practice the above techniques. You'll boost your self-confidence, and others will begin to see you as an expert conversationalist.