“I used to be social now I’m awkward”
There isn’t an exact formula but there are strategies you can use to take your communication skills to the next level. And, we’re going to give you methods and steps for you to follow making it easier to talk to people. No more awkward moments or struggling to understand why you feel, “I used to be social now I’m awkward”. First, let’s learn why it’s important?
How do you talk to people and WHY it’s important?
Learning how to talk to people can be extremely helpful to you in all aspects of your life. We don’t want you to say, “I used to be social now I’m awkward”
Here are reasons why improving your social life is important:
- Personal relationships
- Work-life events or daily meetings, networking.
- Social gatherings such as happy hour, and everything in between.
- Communicating your ideas at work, especially as your career progresses you need to clearly talk about your ideas and decisions.
- In a relationship, it won’t last long if you can effectively communicate what you’re feeling or need to be happy.
- Failing to communicate in a relationship is what usually breaks down a relationship.
Now that you know why it’s so critical to learn good communication skills, we can get into the good stuff. Below we’ve created, what we think, are the most important steps for you to be a part of a great conversation and how to talk to people.
Step #1: Prep before it starts.
Warming up for a conversation is a key part of having a good conversation. You should feel confident, relaxed, and prepared before you go into a social situation.
To be confident, relaxed, and prepared you first need to get your mind right. Before even going out, take a moment to breathe and stay positive. Even a minute of deep breathing and positive affirmations will help you relax and reduce some anxiety. Preparation also requires you to make time to practice your approach, do research, and take a course.
Step #2: Open the conversation.
If you want to take the path of least resistance and reduce the amount of time to find someone you have things in common with, find an event or a social activity you’ll enjoy going to. This will make starting a conversation 100x easier.
For example, if you love playing board games, search Google for, “board game groups near me” and you’ll get thousands of search results. See below. Or, just go to meetup.com and search for your interest.
Now, once you find a social activity you feel comfortable going to, you actually have to begin the conversation. If you want to eat out, sit at the bar. You’ll have more opportunities for conversation since you’re sitting next to other people. If you’re at a random social event, start (and make it a habit) to look for situations that are natural for you to start a conversation.
How do you talk to people naturally? Here are three examples of natural conversation starters:
Sitting at a bar, the TV is playing basketball and you notice the guy next to you watching the same game: “Hey, what a season the Lakers have had this year. What do you think of LeBron James?”
At a random party and you’re grabbing a drink. You notice someone pouring a drink: “Hey, I’ve been looking forward to a drink all day. What are you having?”
At a meetup group and you’re alone: “Hey, I’m John, it’s my first time here. What do you like best about the group?”
Step #3: Ask Better Questions
The backbone of a great conversation are open-ended questions. If you’re not asking the right questions you won’t keep people interested.
Once you introduce yourself and finish your opening, you now have to carry the conversation. What you say next can decide whether the conversation succeeds or fails.
Here are 4 basic fundamentals to becoming a better questioner:
- Use open-ended questions that start with, “What” and “Tell me more about”.
- Ask questions about the person’s life. People love to talk about themselves.
- Be able to actively listen by mirroring, complementing, ask follow up questions
- Surprise people with your questions. Take your questions to the next level.
Here are open-ended questions you can use to spark longer and deeper conversations. Also, don’t be afraid to try different conversation starters, especially if they’re fun!
- Tell me what you’re watching on Netflix?
- What are some travel plans you have coming up?
- What are some things you like to do in your spare time?
- What type of music or songs puts you in a good mood?
One question we really like is: “I’m not from the area, what do you suggest I do this weekend?”
This gives someone the chance to help you which many people love to do. When they suggest places or activities build up the confidence to invite them along.
Protip: If you want to take your questions to a Pro Level then become more observant. If you can learn to start a conversation based upon what’s around you then you’ve become a different level communicator.
If you have tunnel vision, ask yourself, “What do I see around me?” Use what you observe or notice as a conversation starter.
“Oh, nice shoes”
“Hey, isn’t the food great?”
“What a beautiful view.”
“I love your makeup!”
Etc, etc, etc, etc.
The next time you’re in a room, just notice things. Practice here! Look below, what do you notice in the picture? What do you observe? What would you comment on?
If you’re still asking yourself, “how do you talk to people?”, Try making observations with the picture below and come up with things to say!
Step #4: Actively Listen.
When it comes to active listening it’s important to give as much of your energy as possible to the person you’re talking to. Try to make them feel like they’re the only person in the world. You can do this by positioning yourself toward them. Point your body in their direction and lean forward. You can also be more empathetic, comment enthusiastically in the moment, and compliment on what’s being talked about.
Here is an example:
You: “I had a great weekend and I finally booked my trip to NYC and I’m so excited!”
Them: “That’s awesome! I’m so happy for you. You deserve this trip. Take plenty of pictures and send them to me! I can’t wait to hear all about it.”
THEN! Ask a follow-up question such as, “What are you most excited to see in NYC?”
Here are some other tips you should keep in mind when actively listening.
Focus on the person: 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.
Image by Colleen Tighe © The Balance 2019
Step #5: Establish a connection.
Don’t let anyone take up all of your time either. Most importantly, don’t feel bad or guilty about leaving a conversation if you don’t feel good about it. Be a little selfish because your time is important.
If you want to truly establish a quality connection, sometimes a simple invite does the trick. Simply ask the person if they want to continue speaking another time. Save this strategy for people who you feel a real connection with.
Or, ending the conversation by asking, “What can I help you with?”. This will make a bigger 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 people on LinkedIn.”
“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. Create deeper relationships with people who you sincerely want to connect with after a conversation.
“I used to be social now I’m awkward” – Summary of the 5 Steps
1. Warming up for a conversation is a key part of having a good conversation. You should feel confident, relaxed, and prepared before you go into a social situation.
2. Find a social activity you feel comfortable going to, you actually have to begin the conversation. Open the conversation related to the situation you’re in.
3. The backbone of a great conversation is open-ended questions. If you’re not asking the right questions you won’t keep people interested.
4. Try to make people feel like they’re the only person in the world. Point your body in their direction and lean forward. You can also be more empathetic, comment enthusiastically in the moment, and compliment on what’s being talked about.
5. If you want to truly establish a quality connection, sometimes a simple invite does the trick. Simply ask the person if they want to continue speaking another time. Save this strategy for people who you feel a real connection with.
What you can do right now
Download our Tool Kit for free (mini-course, social blueprint, and more). Prepare more when you go out to socialize. We think if you join our community or read a few more blog posts, you won’t be saying, “I used to be social now I’m awkward””.
But you’ll feel more confident, and prepared and you’ll know what to do next, especially, when it comes to socializing.
Or, click below to check out our social skills course!