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How to Talk to People When You Have Nothing to Say

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

100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier 10 Best New Products That People Don’t Know About Book Summary: The Power of Habit in 2 Minutes 1 Minute Book Summary: How To Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less 2 Minutes Book Summary: Thinking Fast and Slow

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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