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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 March 14, 2019

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

    For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

    Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

    1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

    A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

    It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

    It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

    How it helps you:

    If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

    Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

    2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

    Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

    Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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    How it helps you:

    Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

    Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

    If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

    Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

    3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

    Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

    Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

    How it helps you:

    This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

    For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

    Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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    A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

    4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

    To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

    A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

    How it helps you:

    One word: hierarchy.

    All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

    In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

    If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

    5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

    Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

    Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

    How it helps you:

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    Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

    If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

    This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

    6. What do you like about working here?

    This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

    Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

    How it helps you:

    You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

    Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

    Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

    7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

    What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

    As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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    How it helps you:

    What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

    First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

    Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

    Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

    Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

    Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

    Making Your Interview Work for You

    Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

    Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

    More Resources About Job Interviews

    Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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