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.
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.
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.
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.
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.