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How to Talk to People When You Have Nothing to Say

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How to Talk to People When You Have Nothing to Say

Whether we’re a die-hard introvert or an extravagant extrovert, there will always be those strange and awkward moments in a conversation where we struggle to know what to say.

The feeling of panic can arise as we desperately search for the right words yet this usually causes that mental block of appropriate topics to talk about.

So why exactly does this happen? Well it has a tendency to happen when we aren’t so familiar with a certain person or group of people. When you’re thrown into a conversation before common ground has been found, it can be difficult to keep the interaction going in a smooth and natural way because we’re not entirely confident of what and what not to talk about.

How to Keep a Conversation Going With Someone You’re Unfamiliar With

Having a few good techniques under your belt is essential for these exact moments. It will not only help you socially, allowing you to forge better building blocks for potential friendships, but also in professional connections where networking is important.

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Don’t Make ‘Being Interesting’ Your Goal

Many people believe that for people to want to build some kind of relationship, they must win them over with interesting or humorous chat. In reality, this isn’t really the case. The interaction doesn’t have to be insightful for it to be meaningful. Don’t get caught up in the belief that what you have to say isn’t good enough – just say it anyway.

People generally don’t remember what has been said in any given conversation, just that an interaction has taken place. Don’t get hung up on impressing them, just be yourself.

Let Them Talk about Themselves by Asking Good Questions

People generally like to talk about themselves. Not because they’re egotistical but because it’s a safe topic and one they obviously know very well. Therefore, if you’re struggling to think of what to say simply ask good questions.

Asking questions shows a level of personal interest and causes the other person to feel cared for. You do this by paying attention and observing the person to find clues. For example, if they look particularly tired, ask them what they did yesterday. If they have a certain item of clothing, mention you’ve been looking for a similar item and ask where they got it from or can they recommend where you can get one.

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The key is to ask open-ended questions and get them talking rather than questions that elicit yes or no answers. This allows the person to elaborate more, keep the conversation going and helps you find more clues to their personality.

Have a Conversation About Food

The point of this is to find a universal topic. Not everyone knows about the latest technological advances or fashions but you know everyone has a passion or at least an opinion on food.

If you’re eating together it’s an easy way to start a conversation by simply commenting on the food. Or expand by talking about different cuisines or other foods you’ve tried. If you’re eating a meal later, asking or suggesting what you should eat will always be a successful topic.

It’s all about finding that common ground and food is a perfectly simple and universal topic to bring up.

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Simply Rephrase What They Say

Sometimes conversations can wane if you can’t really relate to the topic they’re talking about. If you have little knowledge on the subject it can be hard to add your opinions and awkward silences can ensue.

A good technique in this case, is to rephrase what the other person has said. Not only does this show you’re interested and listening to what they’re saying, but it gives them a chance to point out discrepancies or be eager to tell you more because of your interest. If someone is describing their complicated job to you or a profession you’re not familiar with they may be well aware of your lack of knowledge. By repeating what they say or asking for clarification, you’re creating a sense of interest and rapport.

Share Small Things About Yourself

Sharing things about yourself can seem unnatural to some – especially introverts. However, sharing small things no matter how insignificant will not only show the other person you want them to get to know you, but it’s an easy conversation filler.

As mentioned before, it’s really not about what’s being said in a conversation that people remember. A person is more likely to remember the feeling of an awkward silence with you over a seemingly meaningless conversation about what you ate yesterday or what new gadget you bought.

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The idea is to be confident in bringing up any topic. If you do sense awkwardness, the other person will be more than grateful for your effort in keeping the conversation going so don’t think too much about how you’re coming across with your words.

Knowing it ‘All’ Doesn’t Make Someone a Great Conversationalist

Always keep this in mind. While having a breadth of knowledge can make it easier to converse with different types of people, it’s not necessary.

Know-it-alls do have a tendency to dominate conversations which we all know can turn people off. You’ll be much better off turning your knowledge to the tips above and applying these fundamental rules to the conversations you have. Remember you’re looking for flow and connection in a simple way. Don’t overthink it.

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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