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10 Practical Tips To Keep A Conversation Going

10 Practical Tips To Keep A Conversation Going

No matter how shy or social you may be, there comes a point in every conversation with a new acquaintance where you draw blank. The back and forth may stall, or maybe you’ve started in on a subject you don’t know much about. Instead of having a panic attack and trying to think up a quick excuse to walk away, here are ten practical tips to keep a conversation going.

1. Be interested

Make sure you actually want to socialize. Or, if you don’t–for example, if it’s for a work or family function–then at least be a good actor! Be interested in the conversation you’re having, as well as the person you’re having it with. If you don’t seem interested (even if you are), then they won’t want to keep talking to you.

2. Ask questions

You can appear interested simply by asking questions. When someone brings up a topic, ask questions about it. This will not only show your interest and desire to learn more, it will keep the conversation going because your conversation partner will keep talking. If you’re unfamiliar with the topic of discussion, this will give you a chance to learn more, and then you’ll be able to participate in the conversation more.

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3. Be a good listener

You can’t just ask questions to keep a conversation going. You have to listen to the answers, too. You have to take in the information the other person is giving you and remember it, or else you’ll keep talking in a circle by asking the same questions over and over.

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    4. Maintain eye contact

    Maintaining eye contact is another good way to let the other person know you’re interested in the conversation. If you keep looking at other things around you, then you’ll appear distracted and uninterested in the conversation–even if you’re asking questions and keeping a good back and forth going! Looking directly at the person shows them that you’re focused only on them and the conversation at hand, not anything going on around you, and not anything else going on in your own head.

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    5. Have a list of topics

    This doesn’t mean you have index cards with subjects on them, like you might have back in 7th grade, making that first nerve-wracking phone call to your crush. It just means you have topics in your mind that you’d like to discuss. Maybe it’s some current events that you’d like to hear others’ opinions on, or changes you’d like to make in your own life that the other person might have some knowledge about. Having a list of topics doesn’t have to be a physical list, but keeping a mental list will keep you from coming up blank when it’s your turn to change the subject.

    6. Find common ground

    When you find something you both have in common, it’s a good idea to stretch that thread into a longer conversation! You can find common ground during the course of the discussion, or you might be introduced by someone who already knows what you two have in common, and works it into the introduction.

    7. Say what you’re thinking

    This doesn’t mean you need to blurt out, “I hate your accent” or, “those shoes don’t match your pants.” Look at people around you who seem to have no trouble keeping a conversation going. What do you notice about them? They have no trouble talking because they’re uninhibited! They don’t worry if what they’re going to say next makes them sound stupid–they say what they’re thinking! You should do the same. It doesn’t mean you need to mention every silly thing that pops into your head, ranging from items on your To Do list to the weather this week. It just means they’re not over-thinking the conversation. They’re not trying to figure out if this topic is interesting enough to bring up. They simply bring it up and seeing how the conversation goes!

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    8. Use conversation threading

    Conversation threading is when the other person says a statement that has many different parts you can pick up on and continue the discussion from. An example is when someone says, “last week, I traveled to Alaska for my job.” You could pick up on travel in general, and share some of your own stories, or ask questions about Alaska and what it’s like there, or start talking about the person’s job. You could ask where they work, how often they travel, or share if you travel for work or would like to. There are many different ways the conversation could go from that sentence alone, so listen for statements like that. It will help you direct where the conversation goes with your follow-up questions, instead of being led to a monologue you care nothing about.

    9. Practice

    It sounds silly, but it’s true. Practice is important in all things, and conversation is no exception! You can practice keeping a conversation going with a friend, family member, or the clerk at the grocery store. You can even practice all of these skills in online chats (except eye contact, unless you’re using a webcam!).

    10. Know when to end a conversation

    This is the clincher–literally! If your conversation is going well, it might be hard to know when to end it. You don’t want to interrupt the other person, but you don’t want the connection to run its course. It’s easier to end too early and want to talk to the person again, than to bore them by letting the conversation go too long. It’s hard to know how to stop a conversation, but you should always make it positive. Let the person know you want to talk to them again, and make sure you know how to get in touch with each other.

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    Featured photo credit: Carlos Magariños via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on January 24, 2021

    How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

    How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

    Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

    For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

    But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

    It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

    And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

    The Importance of Saying No

    When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

    In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

    Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

    Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

    Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

    “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

    When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

    How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

    It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

    From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

    We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

    And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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    At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

    The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

    How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

    Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

    But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

    3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

    1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

    If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

    2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

    When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

    Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

    3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

    When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

    6 Ways to Start Saying No

    Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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    1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

    One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

    Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

    2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

    Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

    Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

    3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

    Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

    Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

    You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

    4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

    Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

    Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

    5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

    When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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    How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

      Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

      Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

      6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

      If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

      Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

      Final Thoughts

      Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

      Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

      Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

      More Tips on How to Say No

      Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
      [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
      [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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