14 Steps for Knowing What To Say and When
Society is run by social interaction, and at times you might find yourself wondering how to have a good conversation. You may be looking to improve your basic conversational skills, or maybe the problem is that you just never seem to know what to say.
If you’ve ever found yourself wishing there was a way to learn to speak better and become a master of chit-chat, you’ve come to the right place. In this 14-step guide, we’re going to teach you the best methods on how to have a good conversation so that you can build stronger and more meaningful conversations with people to benefit both your social life and your career.
Just as an athlete continually works to strengthen their muscles or endurance, you need to work to strengthen your conversational skills by consistently practicing and coming up with new strategies for improvement. With some time, you’ll begin to see results and reap the benefits of your hard work.
Beginning a conversation and then carrying it to a level of meaningful discussion can sometimes be a daunting task. We’ve all been there at one point or another. The good news is you can achieve great success with a little help and the right understanding. So how is it done?
Willingness to Learn and Improve your Conversational Skills
An expert in the art of verbal communication is something that everyone can appreciate and admire, especially employers or those in professional circles. The focus here is not about impressing people with your conversational skills, because nobody’s going to say or think to themselves “Wow, this person is really great at having conversations!” – but rather they’re going to see that you’re an effective communicator. Essentially, a good communicator has the capability to transport thoughts and ideas from their mind into the verbal landscape of language, and is able to do it consistently.
A recent LinkedIn survey of 291 hiring managers in the U.S. revealed that 59% of them believe “soft skills” (communication, listening, empathy, etc.) are difficult to find. It’s becoming more apparent in the age of the internet that our ability to communicate well in live situations has decreased, and that effective social skills must be increasingly learned and mastered.
Being able to collaborate with others, communicate clearly, deliver concise thoughts, and hold a good conversation offers significant advantages in both your career and your social life.
The LinkedIn survey shows the top 10 Most Desirable Skills Hiring Managers are looking for:
The list above clearly highlights the need for good people skills. It’s important that you know how to have a good conversation and can demonstrate that ability in a professional setting because it’s applicable to practically every job function you can imagine. This is especially true at the higher levels of an individual’s career, or where one is required to frequently interact with customers and clients.
Ask yourself, “do I possess the majority of the skills above?”
If so, that’s great and you’ll surely have an advantage in the workplace. If not, that’s fine as well – but you’ll have to learn, which is something we do every day of our lives anyway. There’s always room for improvement, so let’s take a look at exactly what we’ll be learning about.
In this Ultimate Guide we’re going to dig deep into how to have a good conversation, how to practice your conversational skills, and how to continually polish them so you can communicate easily and effectively in any situation.
Let’s get started. We’ll focus on 4 main categories, each with their own subsections. Feel free to use the following table of contents to jump to any section that interests you, or to the areas where you require the most practice.
Step #1. Learning to Feel Less Anxious
Step #2. Building Confidence and Overcoming Insecurity
Step #3. Using Charisma
Step #4. Create Rapport and Trust.
Step #5. Stay Positive by Using These Comments.
Step #6. Define Your Voice.
Step #7. Use Small Talk to Find More Information.
Step #8. Turn Listening Skills into Active Listening.
Step #9. Go Deeper with Deep Conversation Questions.
Step #10. Thread a Conversation Together.
Step #11. How to Properly Move on From the Conversation.
Step #12. How to Properly Establish a Connection.
Step #13. Low Self-Confidence.
Step #14. The Awkward Silence.
Overview of How to Have a Good Conversation
Now before we started, you might be thinking…
“What’s the best way to initiate a conversation?”
“What are some conversational questions I can ask?”
“How can I become more likable? Why do I have a hard time knowing what to say?”
These are all great questions and we’re happy you’re asking them. We want to give you the best tools to speak with people confidently so you can create and maintain meaningful relationships, and enjoyable social interactions.
The information within this guide will give you the required understanding of how to have a good conversation. We’ll provide actionable tips and specific examples to make the learning process as easy as possible. Everything is broken down for you so it’s simple to understand. The guide will also address some of the challenges you might encounter when talking with people. Finally, we review how to overcome the biggest challenges.
Now that we’re all geared up. Let’s Get Started!
Step #1: Learning to Feel Less Anxious
The following tips to curb anxiety will allow you to start from a calm place and improve your conversational abilities.
Don’t take your conversation into the middle of nowhere – that’s not a helpful method. Always make sure that your conversation has direction and some sort of end point in mind; a destination if you will…
Speaking with intention and direction creates purpose, and purpose helps boost self-confidence during a conversation.
Practice and Prepare
Preparing your questions and answers will help you make a great first impression. You can also improve your speaking skills by talking to yourself in the mirror, or practicing your conversation with a friend or partner (don’t worry, it’s not as weird as it sounds).
Feeling prepared will help you feel more confident, however, preparation does not mean memorization. Over-preparing can backfire, and this can create conversational anxiety about memorizing your lines. Use preparation as a helpful tool and a basic guide, but not a rule book. Approaching the conversation in a relaxed demeanor will help your mind naturally remember relevant topics that you prepared as the conversation evolves.
Bring a friend if you can
Bringing a friend along can almost always make it easier to have a good conversation. A friend can act as a safeguard and/or cheerleader until you’re confident enough to have one-on-one conversations without support.
Mark Divine, a U.S. Navy SEAL and the founder of SEALFIT, says there’s one practice that has helped him rise above others as a method to quickly and reliably help him become centered and focused by ensuring the blood and brain have an optimal amount of oxygen.
Control your breathing by using “box breathing”. Here’s how you do it:
- Expel all the air from your chest, and keep your lungs empty for four long counts. You can count, or trace your finger on a surface in the shape of a square for each count, hence the term “box breathing”
- Next, inhale through your nose for four long counts. Make sure your breath does not stop at your chest as you inhale and instead reaches your belly.
- Hold the air in your lungs for four long counts.
- Finally, exhale smoothly through your nose for four counts.
That’s one “rep.” Divine recommends doing the practice for five minutes minimum to experience the maximum benefits. Here’s a visual to help.
In short, the box breathing exercise is good to practice in private or with a friend before you enter a social event with the purpose of practicing your new conversational skills.
- Find someone to approach who looks like they might need a friend: We’ve all seen people who look alone, shy or nervous. Sometimes you can just tell. Say Hi, Hey, Hello, how are you? Shake a hand, be friendly, and make eye contact. You can also use this to relate to each other. If you notice you’re both nervous, speak up so no one feels alone. “I’m nervous too!”, or, “These events can be so awkward sometimes!”
- Remember to initiate conversations differently: Talking to someone at a bar will be more relaxed versus someone at a professional event, where you will likely be more formal. Some social events are easier and less intimidating than others, but this can vary from person to person and depend greatly on the situation.
- Go where you feel comfortable having conversations: To really make progress, practice by socializing in a place where you thrive. Finding a location, event, or meeting where you feel comfortable talking to people can be key to socializing more comfortably and having great conversations. Don’t drain yourself of energy by forcing yourself to go places you hate.
In essence, ask yourself where do you thrive the most. Figure out when and where you’re most comfortable when talking to people and take advantage of that in your efforts to learn how to have a good conversation.
The simple things like knowing where you like to spend most of your time is important in finding someone relatable to speak to, in a setting that you’re comfortable communicating in. Consider pondering places where you’ve previously had good conversations, or situations which tend to bring out the best in you.
Here is an idea list of 20 potential places you might feel comfortable engaging in a conversation:
- Family parties
- Walking meetings
- One on one meeting
- Coffee shops
- Office meetings
- Video chats
- Cocktail parties
- Meetup groups
- Networking events
- Music festivals
- Comic book events or comic con
- Sporting events
- Backyard parties
- Small gatherings
- Comedy show
- Cooking class
- Wine tasting
Chose 4 places that you think you’ll enjoy and 4 places you think would be miserable. Then create a list, plan accordingly, get out there, and see what happens!
Step #2: Building Confidence and Overcoming Insecurity
Knowledge creates confidence. Understanding the fundamentals of communication and using them daily will help you to build confidence. Educating yourself by reading this guide will also make you more confident because you’ll have something to reference. Reading books, listening to interviews, watching videos and experiencing different conversations can also be an extremely helpful part of educating yourself.
As the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect”. Practice is a huge part of learning how to have a good conversation, and truly helps you take your skills to the next level. Consistency in your practice is key. Knowing what to say and making a great impression takes practice, and with enough practice you will have more and more confidence with each person you speak with. Your confidence will lead to better conversations, and this effect will snowball. Eventually, you’ll be able to have a conversation in nearly any situation with complete ease.
Get as much feedback as possible. While you shouldn’t rely solely on the opinions of others to boost your confidence, you do need to validate how effective you are and how far you’ve come along.
Validation can also be very effective in building confidence when you receive good advice or constructive feedback. We recommend receiving feedback from someone you trust and feel comfortable with at first. Think of 2 people who can provide honest, constructive feedback and ask them to evaluate your skills.
Practice Positive Self-Talk and Positive Affirmations
It has been proven that positive self-talk can improve your confidence and reduce stress, along with other benefits. Get into the habit of practicing positive declarations. Say positive things about yourself and the situation you’re in that make you feel uncertain.
For example, tell yourself: “I am confident in my abilities.” “Everything will work out.” “I can do this!” “With each conversation I am getting better.” “I will rock this interview!”
Be OKAY with Mistakes: No one likes to “fail”, but failure is an indicator of learning. Sometimes society makes us feel like a mistake is the end of the world sometimes or we should never make a mistake. However, mistakes are human nature and most humans learn best through mistakes.
Even more, if you are serious about getting confident, then you need to become comfortable with not being perfect. There is no easy way to do this, but according to Peter Guber, you can fail faster. Fix your mistakes as soon as you realize it and learn how to avoid it in the future.
Avoid Negative People
Find a trustworthy partner for this journey and share experiences only with the people you trust and who will encourage you. Surrounding yourself with supportive people can change your life.
Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D., is a Professor of Marketing affiliated with the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, writes on Psychology Today, saying-
“It can be excruciatingly difficult to deal with negative people – people who bring your mood down with their pessimism, anxiety, and general sense of distrust. Imagine being constantly discouraged from pursuing your dreams because “very few people make it big.”
Or imagine being constantly warned against learning a new skill—like Scuba diving or horseback riding—because “it’s too dangerous.” Likewise, imagine being routinely exposed to negative judgments about other people (e.g., “I can’t believe you told our neighbors that you failed your driving test—now they’ll never respect you!”)
Constant exposure to such negativity can make deep inroads into your bank of positivity, leading you to either become negative—diffident, anxious, and distrustful—yourself, or to become indifferent, uncaring, or even mean towards the negative person.”
Building confidence to initiate a conversation is not easy but it can be done with motivation. With a lot of things in our life, the journey starts in your mind. But sometimes it’s hard to do it on your own and your insecurities are more complex than you thought. Working on yourself is also about diving deep into your thoughts, history, and insecurities.
Discovering how to overcome anything holding you back in life is important and can be life-changing. Discover counseling in your area by clicking here.
Step #3: Using Charisma
Charisma is defined as someone who is admired, accepted, and influential on others around them. If you’re charismatic, people will want to talk to you, and you’ll find it much easier to initiate and hold conversations.
If you’re a shy person that feels awkward at times or your mind goes blank occasionally, just remember that being likeable is a skill you can improve with effort. In fact, all it takes is confidence and experience making conversation.
We can all achieve a level of conversation where we are pleasant to be around and to say things that are interesting. Charisma is not a skill you have to be born with! However, with time, you can become charismatic because it’s a learnable skill. All you have to do it practice the right behaviors.
“Charisma is simply the result of learned behaviors,” says Olivia Fox Cobane, author of “The Charisma Myth.”
Even more, you don’t need to be physically attractive, extroverted, or have a certain type of personality. Below are some are actionable tips to keep in mind. Most importantly, remember to use these tips in your next conversation to become more interesting and likable. Some of what is listed below we also go into detail later in this guide.
Ideas for Being More Charismatic
Be Sincere: Being genuine goes a long way. It helps the other person feel more comfortable and related to you. Don’t pretend to be interested in someone. That could come back to bite you in the future. Always remember that one of the main goals of a conversation is to find a connection, to be sincerely interested, and genuinely curious about the other person.
Ask impactful and interesting questions: This is a huge factor for success! Asking meaningful questions can extend the conversation and greatly enhance the quality. We go in-depth about which questions to ask later in the guide. Don’t worry, we have plenty of examples for you to test out.
Keep an open mind: Try not to judge people is an important aspect of learning how to have a good conversation. Being open-minded makes you approachable and easy to talk to. This also allows you to ask more questions and find a connection with the other person.
Don’t show off: If you try to show off or prove how important you are people will be turned off. No one likes a self-absorbed know it all. Be humble. Stand out, but don’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Have a consistent mood and behavior: Being able to have a consistent mood is very important because people like to know who they’re dealing with. If your mood tends to fluctuate, try to not let it affect people.
Use positive body language: Try not to cross your arms or turn your body away from the person your talking to. Use consistent eye contact, lean towards the person you’re talking to, and use an optimistic tone. Be aware of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice.
Create a strong first impression: Say their name and smile while talking or introducing yourself. Greet with an appropriate hug, a friendly handshake, or a touch on the shoulder.
Be OK with where you’re at: Go easy on yourself. Just because someone else might be “more likable” doesn’t mean you should compare yourself. We are all at different levels at different times. Focus on your journey and continue to improve as much as you can.
Have fun: Don’t take yourself too seriously and enjoy the experience. Try not to worry about making mistakes, most likely no one will notice.
Finally, likable people bring out the best in those around them. They create an atmosphere of happiness and positive vibes. Add these recommendations to your conversations and watch your likeability skyrocket! Tap your charisma potential!
Most people usually decide if they like someone, trust them, or want a relationship with a person within the first few seconds of meeting. This is why creating rapport is important factor when it comes to having a good conversational skills.
Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal, publishers of Thin Slices of Expressive Behavior as Predictors of Interpersonal Consequences, conclude that people make quick and accurate judgments in the first few seconds of meeting someone.
This is determined without even hearing someone speak. You’re in control of influencing those initial impressions with your approach and ongoing rapport building skills.
You might be asking yourself, “If people judge in mere seconds, how can I ever make friends?”
Think of it this way; humans use first impressions as a survival mechanism. The fight or flight response kicks in and your body makes the decision for you. This is all based on what is in front of you, and what the mind processes from experience and input it receives. .
Do you leave, or do you stay? Is this person safe to be with? Are they a friend or someone who can hurt you? Are they a leader or a follower?
These are questions your mind and body instinctively ask.
Step #4: Creating Rapport and Trust
To make a good first impression you must try to create rapport, which means gaining the trust of the person you’re talking to. One of the easiest ways to do this is by being charismatic.
In fact, using simple techniques to show you’re a safe person is important in any environment. Use hand gestures, good posture, positive tone of voice, eye contact, and say their name. Keep your hands visible and never skip a handshake. Be as confident as you can because humans instinctively want to be around others who look and behave like a “winner”, or someone who is “successful”.
Without a doubt, always try to find something in common. Humans are attracted to others who have similarities. One way you can do this is by making the other person feel good about themselves through flattery and positive comments – just be sure not to overdo it.
Step #5: Stay Positive by Using These Comments
Judith E. Glaser, author, academic, business executive, and organizational anthropologist, and Richard D. Glaser, a founding member of The CreatingWE Institute writes,
“Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex…Behaviors that spark oxytocin, by contrast, raise conversational IQ.”
Using positive and encouraging comments is a very important aspect of any conversation. If you’ve ever been around someone who makes negative comments or complains about almost everything, you know exactly what we’re talking about and have a good understanding of the types of people to avoid. Just think about the person at work who never has anything positive to say. It’s draining, and people usually don’t want to be around that person.
5 general examples of positive comments that are encouraging and supportive
- “I’m so happy you had a great weekend!”
- “Wow! That’s impressive. Tell me more about your job.”
- “You’re ready for this interview! You’ll do great.”
- “I love the way you told the story about your trip to Italy. I felt like I was there!”
- “If you keep practicing as hard as you do, you might go pro!”
These are meant to make the other person feel good, wanting to come back to you for more conversation. Most importantly, make sure you mean what you say. Remember, be sincere.
Practicing a positive attitude and using positive comments during conversations will increase your bond with people. You will be more attractive and more desirable to be around when you’re supportive. Practicing positive thinking and positive conversations will increase your likability!
Step #6: Defining Your Voice
Remember; how you say your words matter because the tone of your voice is impactful. According to a study done by a psychology professor from UCLA, Dr. Albert Mehrabian, there are three elements that account for how well we receive someone’s message and they impact us differently:
The three elements that affect us differently are: Words, tone of voice and body language.
The study goes on to say, “Even the slightest negative tone or movement can indicate to parties our support or lack of support for their involvement in a conference process. Nods, smiles, positive ‘Mmmhmms’ and ‘ahhhahhs’, looks of understanding, questioning and empathy all encourage people to participate in communication which builds trust and assists them to have the confidence to discuss sometimes very difficult issues.”
Step #7: Use Small-Talk to Find More Information
You can begin learning how to have a good conversation though leveraging small talk. Small talk is an important part of a conversation many people brush off. It helps maintain a flow and hold engagement.
Small talk is important because simple topics are often the ones that spark much deeper conversations. Several sessions of small talk builds substance for more authentic conversations and helps create more rapport at the same time.
A lot of people hate small talk because they think it’s superficial. However, this is usually because they’re not good at it. Small talk – just like conversation – is a skill that requires confidence, and practice. But imagine trying to skip small talk and going straight for a deep conversation about politics or your family. It would seem rather odd, end abruptly, and probably leave you feeling less than confident.
Small talk usually begins with general topics such as the weather, sports, where you’re from, work and school.
For example, general topics that can tell us a lot about who the other person is. It allows you to evaluate another person and their background. It can reveal a lot, such as if they are whiny, sad, happy, a positive person, judgmental, or a potential friend or client. It’s all about using information to build the conversation or end it.
Getting good at making small talk with people will propel your conversation skills to another level. This is the entryway into having a good conversation with a complete stranger, and can make or break your ability to converse in difficult situations
Examples and ideas for practicing your small talk
- “Good morning! I’m Sasha. Since I see you every day here at the office I wanted to introduce myself.”
- “Hey! What do you think of the weather today? It’s definitely a beach day.”
- “What did you think of the NBA finals last night? Great game.”
- “Hey Tyler, how are things going over at the customer service department today?”
- “Hey! I’m really looking forward to drinks after work today. I hear Sasha will be coming with us too!”
You can small talk about a few universal topics such as the weather, current news, sports, and entertainment. These are usually safe small talk topics, but keep in mind that not everyone follows sports, or entertainment news. If you’re good, you can try to match people’s interests, especially if you’ve heard them talking about a current event or weekend adventure. Likewise, you can always bring up a topic from a news story or an article you read that day and ask the person if they’re familiar with it. Sometimes this is one of the best ways to begin a conversation.
Step #8: Turn Listening Skills into Active Listening
A good listener is a good learner. Taking turns and not dominating the conversation is very important. This seems obvious, however, it can be hard to put into practice. At times, you may want to yell out ideas, thoughts, argue, disagree or get excited. Try to control this. Allowing the other person to finish their complete thought is a sure-fire strategy for having a smooth exchange of words.
Another part of listening is to look like your listening – be present and aware of the person who is speaking, not drifting off into your mind or focusing on something else that’s happening nearby. To be a good listener, you must give the speaker your full attention.
You can do this by following the tips below:
- Focus on the person in front of you – Giving someone your undivided attention is a huge compliment.
- Use eye contact – But not so much that you look like you’re having a staring contest.
- Use body language – Nod your head, smile, point your body in their direction.
- Be empathetic – Put yourself in their shoes.
Step #9: Go Deeper with Deep Conversation Questions
When practicing and learning how to have a good conversation, you should always strive to be unique and interesting. The questions below are great for starting something up and then taking it to a deeper level. You don’t want the generic “Where are you from?” type of questions unless the setting is ripe for that. You want to be different, which will help keep the conversation going.
Not all of these questions will work in every situation, but they will significantly improve many of your conversations. For example:
- What are some personal projects you’re working on?
- Working on anything exciting lately outside of work?
- What did you like about tonight’s networking event?
- What was the highlight of your day today?
- What was the highlight of your week?
- What was the best part of your weekend?
- What are you looking forward to this weekend?
- Tell me about your weekend.
- Tell me about your family?
- What are some things you have going on this weekend?
- What kind of work do you do?
- What are some things your doing at work you like?
These open-ended questions spark longer and deeper discussions and will extend the conversation significantly.
Fun questions can really make things interesting. Don’t be afraid to try different conversation starters especially if they’re fun! If you’re confident enough to try something new, try using some of the fun conversation starters below…
- What was the last funny video you watched on YouTube?
- What is your favorite Netflix show?
- What are some of your future travel plans?
- Which countries have you traveled to?
- If you’re traveling to a new country, what do you think is the best way to travel?
- What are some of your hobbies or things you’re passionate about?
- What type of music or songs puts you in a good mood?
- What’s the best way to discover music these days?
- What do you think phones and computers will be like in 10 years?
- What type of sports do you watch?
- What’s your opinion on college athletes getting paid?
If you’re feeling adventurous, below are a few funny conversations starters.
- I just watched “Goodfellas” this weekend. If you were in witness protection program, where would you go, what would your name be, and why? Also, what did you do to be in witness protective program?
- What would your theme song be while walking to work and why?
- If you had the ability to be amazing at any job wanted what would it be?
- Which celebrity would you have dinner with and why?
- If you received $1,000 a day for the rest of your life, what would you do with the extra cash?
Step #10: Thread a Conversation Together
Conversation threads are questions followed up by a more in-depth question related to the topic. For example, you’d follow up a simple and direct question with something more open-ended. Ask the question, wait for the person to answer, and then follow up with another interesting or open-ended question. You may find that you’ll get the same questions in return, and you’ll be having a great conversation with hardly any effort.
Open-ended questions can nudge the conversation into deeper, more authentic territory – where introverts tend to thrive.
Here are a few more examples:
- “Where are you from?” followed by “What is your hometown like? How is it different than here?”
- “What do you do?” followed by “What made you enter your profession? What inspires you about that type of work?”
- “Have you attended these networking events before?” followed by “What did you think of today’s speaker?”
- “Did you have a good Friday night?” followed by “What kind of fun did you get into last night?”
- “Did you like the restaurant?” followed by “What do you recommend eating there?”
Do’s and Don’t When Asking Open-Ended Questions
(By Susan Farrell)
|Don’t (Closed)||Do (Open)|
|Are you satisfied?||How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with this process?|
|Did it act as you expected?||What would (did) you expect to happen when you … ?|
|Did you find it?||Before a task:
After a task:
|Do you think you would use this?||How would this fit into your work? How might this change the way you do that today?|
|Does that work for you?||What do you think about that?|
|Have you done this before?||What kinds of questions or difficulties have you had when doing this in the past? What happened when you did this before? Please describe your level of experience with …|
|Is this easy to use?||What’s most confusing or annoying about … ? What worked well for you?|
|Did you know … ?||How do you know … ?|
|Do you normally … ?||How do you normally … ?|
|Did you see that?||What just happened? What was that?|
|Do you like this?||What would you most want to change about … ? Which things did you like the best about … ?|
|Did you expect this kind of information to be in there?||Before a task:
After a task:
Learning how to have a good conversation is important. It lends a sense of accomplishment and can make both parties feel better than before the conversation began. However, effectively moving on from a conversation can sometimes be critical. Especially when trying to make friends and be likable.
First, decide if you want to continue a conversation or have some type of relationship with this person. You usually sense if there is a connection within the first conversation.
Step #11: How to Properly Move on From a Conversation
End the conversation gracefully by being as courteous as possible. Below are some examples on how to end the conversation gracefully.
- “It was great meeting you! I’m going to continue to mingle around.”
- “It was great meeting you! I’m going to continue to meet people. Here is my card if you ever want to reach out.”
- “I’m going to get another drink. I’ll see you around.”
- “I’m going to meet my friends, it’s nice meeting you.”
- “If you would like to reach out, here is my card.”
- “Thanks for sharing your experience, have a great night.”
- “My goal is to meet at least one more person. Who would you suggest I talk to next?”
- “Excuse me, do you know where the bathroom is?”
- “Hi, this is ____,” (Introduce someone else into the conversation)
- “Excuse me, I have to make a phone call.”
- “It was great catching up with you. We’ll talk soon, I’m sure”
- “I don’t want to monopolize all your time. I’m going to go mingle a little more. Here is my card, feel free to reach out anytime.”
These “exit” lines are all adaptable and can be used in almost any situation. Change them up according to the situation you are in. Have a few in mind, especially if you think you might come across a boring conversation.
Keep in mind that the goal is to connect, meet people, and having meaningful conversations. Don’t let anyone take up all your time. Most importantly, don’t feel bad or guilty about exiting a conversation that might not go anywhere. If you do it right, you can exit mid-conversation without creating any awkwardness, and without the least hint of being rude.
Step #12: How to Properly Establish a Connection
If you want to establish a deeper meaningful relationship with someone – Simply ask the person if they want to continue speaking elsewhere. Save this strategy for people who you feel a real connection with.
A great tip from Vanessa Van Edwards, Founder of Science of People, says, “Every time you offer help, support, and advice, you create a deeper bond with someone, and a permanent similarity.”
Ending a conversation by asking, “What can I help you with?” will make a larger impact on the other person leading to a more meaningful relationship.
Here are some things to say:
- “Because you’re visiting for the first time, here is a list of great places to visit in town.”
- “Since I’m familiar with people in that industry, I can introduce you to a couple people on LinkedIn.”
- “Losing weight is hard, I know a great book I can recommend.”
- “Since you’re going to NYC for vacation, I can send you a list of my favorite local restaurants.”
This part of the conversation is where you decide if you want to go further with the conversation. Do you want to turn it into a more meaningful relationship or not? However, don’t offer help if you can’t. Create deeper relationships with people who you sincerely want to connect with after a conversation.
Lastly, Vanessa Van Edwards, author of the book Captivate and Lewis Howes, author and entrepreneur, use the “Teach Me!” strategy to deepen conversations. If the person you’re talking to mentions something you don’t know about or have little knowledge of, ask for more information on the idea or topic. This is a moment in the conversation you can figuratively say, “Teach Me!”
Here are some examples:
- “I’ve never been to that part of Europe, tell me more about it.”
- “I’ve never met anyone who has worked in that industry. Tell me more about it.”
- “I’ve never heard of that documentary before. What is it about?”
- “You have so much experience traveling. Where do you recommend going for my next trip?”
- “I haven’t seen much of New York City besides Times Square. Since you lived there, what are some cool places only the locals know about?”
Step #13: Low Self-Confidence
Your thoughts can go a long way when you’re trying to get to another place in life. Positive thinking can help you develop confidence and success in creating better communication skills or anything in life. Research reveals that positive thinking is much more than just being happy or displaying an upbeat attitude. Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, says,
“Negative thinking and negative emotions can produce problems such as anxiety disorders, aggression, depression, low self-confidence and many other stress-related physical disorders.”
It’s so easy to get caught up in negative thinking; this can derail your attempt of being a good communicator before you even talk to anyone!
The first step to avoid this is to stop seeking approval or validation and comparing yourself to others. There will be times in life when you’ll feel angry and jealous of someone else and begin comparing yourself to make accurate evaluations. This type of mentality will not help you to attain your goals. Thinking or obsessing about how someone else is ‘better than you’ will zap your motivation, reduce your chances of completing your goal, and kill your positivity. After all, the important thing to keep in mind is that we’re all on different levels of learning and it’s so easy to see someone else’s final product. The most attractive skill you can develop is self-confidence.
Step #14: The Awkward Silence
It’s all about how you react to the silence. Stay confident, take a deep breath, and remain positive. you’ll send the message to yourself and to everyone else that what’s happening is normal and not awkward at all.
Lookout for any physical similarities or objects you can talk about. For example, if you notice the person you’re talking to is wearing a New York University hat, you can say:
“Did you go to NYU?” or “What was it like living in the city for school?”
If you walk into someone’s office and notice baseball memorabilia, you can mention:
“Are you a baseball fan?” or “Who’s your favorite team?”
If you ask, “are you a baseball fan?”, it can lead into a “me too” conversation where you discover similarities.
“You’re a Mets fan too?!” or “I was at the game last weekend! “Me too!”
You’re pointing out similarities, but make sure to dive into the similarity and explore it. Just because there’s silence doesn’t mean you did something wrong. The conversation may have come to an end or a few seconds is needed to figure out what to say next. Maybe you need time to reflect because someone said something thought-provoking. Or it’s the simple fact that people just don’t want to talk at that moment. And guess what? That’s OK!
Silence is acceptable. Try to manage any anxiety that comes up. Remember not to panic. Breathe! A few seconds of silence isn’t that big of a deal if you don’t make it one. End the conversation or move on to your next question or thought.
You should always reflect on your conversation as well. After you have ended your discussion or have come home from an event, reflect on your interactions with people. You can do this by talking to your spouse, friend, writing in a journal, or thinking about it on your way home.
What did I learn? What did I do well? What can I improve on? Did I have fun? Who should I follow up with?
Reflection is a powerful mechanism behind learning.
American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey:
“We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”
All things considered, take 5+ minutes to reflect after your conversations. This will help improve your skills and identify behaviors that are going great for you and what needs more training. This will help you learn and increase your conversational IQ.
Summary/Review of How to have a good conversation
Can you be likable?
Of course, you can! You can learn how to be charismatic and use it in everyday conversations.
- Go where you feel comfortable and thrive. This will help stimulate conversations and have a higher chance of finding similarities with people.
- To make good first impressions, you must create rapport. Gain their trust. You do this in a few different ways. Hands, posture, eye contact, and tone of voice.
- Entering a conversation is making small talk. Or, in other words, getting the conversation warmed up for a deeper and more meaningful conversation. This is a must in learning how to carry a conversation.
- Be different, be novel, be interesting. Deep conversation questions help carry the conversation and relationship. Open-ended questions spark longer and deeper discussions. Start with simple questions or the ones above.
- Conversation threads are follow up questions by a more in-depth question related to the topic. Ask the question, wait for the person to answer, and then follow up with a more interesting/open-ended question.
- Use open-ended questions nudge the conversation into the deeper, more authentic territory – where introverts tend to thrive.
- Decide to end a conversation gracefully or create a more meaningful relationship.
- Ask someone if they want to continue the conversation elsewhere. Save this for people who you feel a real connection with and want to take to the next level.
Reflect. After you have ended your conversations or have come home from an event, reflect on your interactions with people. What did you learn? How did it go? Are you making progress in learning how to have a good conversation?
What To Do Next?
You now have completed the guide to understanding how to have a good conversation!
After completing this guide, you now possess the raw fundamentals of how to have a good conversation with practically anyone. We now expect you to use the guide, apply it daily, practice, and use all the tools at your disposal.
Initiating conversation and creating relationships is hard, especially if you’re new at it. Many try and many fail, but you should never give up on becoming a better communicator. This guide is a roadmap toward your success and will give you a head start over many people who don’t try.
Without a doubt, you need to practice these ideas every day, and try to experience as many conversations as possible. Step as far as you possibly can outside your comfort zone. Start creating more small talk. Most importantly, have fun!
Take this as a challenge and an opportunity. Show us that you can make it happen. We believe in you, and we’re confident that almost anyone can learn how to have a good conversation with a little patience and practice.
Now get out there and talk! You can do this! Be great!